Aug 9, 2010
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Tel Aviv acted lawfully in attacking a Gaza-bound aid convoy, which killed nine Turkish civilians onboard the fleet.
In a testimony before an Israeli inquiry panel, Netanyahu expressed confidence that the investigation would end finding the Israeli army “acted in accordance with international law,” AFP reported.
He said Israel had made every diplomatic effort to have the ships turn back or dock elsewhere, charging Turkey with making no effort to prevent the six-ship fleet from breaking the Israeli blockade.
Netanyahu said that he had ordered troops to make “a supreme effort to be made to avoid harming anyone.”
He also reiterated Israel’s long-held claim that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, charging human rights groups of efforts to undermine the blockade through “false claims of a humanitarian crisis.”
The inquirey team, headed by retired judge Yaakov Tirkel, was to hear the rest of Netanyahu’s testimony behind closed doors after a late morning recess.
The five-member panel â€” including only two foreign observers with limited powers â€” was created in June under mounting global pressure for an international investigation into the deadly incident of May 31.
The committee was mandated to examine the international legality of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and of actions taken to enforce it, as well as the actions of the activists onboard the Turkish-flagged Gaza Freedom Flotilla on their blockade-busting journey.
Panel members are not authorized to probe the decision-making process which led up to the operation, nor do they have the authority to question troops involved in the fatal onslaught.
Following Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi are scheduled to testify before the Tirkel panel on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
This is while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally named his own panel last week to look into the attack. The team includes representatives from Israel and Turkey and is set to begin work on Tuesday.
The UN Human Rights Council is also carrying out an inquiry while Turkey is looking to file a criminal case against Netanyahu, Barak and Ashkenazi, charging them with piracy and murder.
This article was posted: Monday, August 9, 2010 at 9:40 am