Leaked UN Report Finds Israel’s Gaza Blockade ‘Legal,’ But Faults Marmara Raid

Posted September 1st, 2011 at 3:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The New York Times has published what is says is a leaked copy of a U.N. panel's report which found that a deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish vessel attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza last year to be “legal,” but also “excessive and unreasonable.”

In the report, , the world body criticizes Israel's May 31, 2010 commando operation on the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara when nine Turkish citizens, including a Turkish-American, were shot dead in a violent confrontation. Several Israeli soldiers also were wounded.

The report's lead authors are former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The four-member panel also included representatives of the Israeli and Turkish governments.

The panel concluded that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is a “legitimate security measure” to prevent weapons from entering the militant-ruled territory by sea. It also said the Israeli commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara used force to protect themselves in response to what it called “significant, organized and violent resistance” from some of the passengers.

But, the report also criticized the loss of life resulting from the Israeli raid as “unacceptable.” It said Israel has not provided a “satisfactory explanation” for the killings of the nine Turks, most of whom it says were “shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range.”

The Mavi Marmara was the largest of six vessels in a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians. The panel said the flotilla organizers “acted recklessly” by trying to breach the Israeli blockade. It also accused Israel of “significant mistreatment” of flotilla passengers after Israeli forces commandeered the vessels Mediterranean waters off the Israeli coast.

A U.N. deputy spokesman said Thursday he expected the report to be officially released in the “next few days.” The world body had no immediate comment on the leak. Turkey has long demanded an Israeli apology for the raid, compensation for the families of those who died, and a scrapping of the blockade. Israel refuses to apologize but has not ruled out expressing regret and offering compensation.

The report was completed in July but U.N. officials repeatedly have delayed its release to give Israel and Turkey an opportunity to resolve their dispute about the Mavi Marmara incident, which has severely strained relations between the one-time allies.

Turkish media quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday as saying Israel must apologize by the day of the report's official publication or face unspecified Turkish sanctions.