The presence of a 19-year-old man with dual US-Turkish citizenship among the dead, announced by the US State Department on Thursday, potentially complicates the Obama administration's attempts to remain neutral in the crisis. State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley said the victim, Furkan Doğan, who was born in upstate New York, had died of “gunshot wounds,” but he declined to confirm reports that he had been shot multiple times in the head. Crowley said US consular officials had seen Doğan's body in a morgue in Israel before it was taken to Turkey but had not known he was a dual citizen at the time.
Doğan's father, Ahmet, told Turkey's Anatolia news agency that he had identified his son's body and that he had been shot through the forehead. He said the family was not sad because they believed Furkan had died with honor.
“I feel my son has been blessed by heaven,” he said. “I am hoping to be a father worthy of my son.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that no decision had yet been made about how to handle Doğan's death but renewed calls for Israel to “conduct a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation that conforms to international standards and gets to all the facts surrounding this tragic event.”
“We are open to different ways to assuring it is a credible investigation, including urging appropriate international participation,” Clinton told reporters at a joint press conference following talks with India’s visiting minister of external affairs, S.M. Krishna. The US has resisted widespread international calls to condemn Israel for the operation and has said it believes Israel is best positioned to lead an investigation.
Mourners hold Turkish flags and posters that read “Our honor, our martyr, Furkan Doğan” as thousands attend the funeral of Furkan Doğan, 19.
But the death of an American citizen adds a new element because any time an American citizen is killed overseas, the US government has the option to open its own investigation into the case.
“If we think a crime has been committed, then working with the host government we have the option of our own investigation,” Crowley said. Asked if the FBI had gotten involved, he said: “At this point, no.”
Israel has thus far rebuffed calls for any international role in a probe of Monday’s incident in which commandos boarded several ships heading to the blockaded Gaza Strip with humanitarian supplies. Israel says its forces encountered fierce resistance on board one ship, resulting in the violence that claimed the nine lives.
“It is our standard practice after military operations, especially operations in which there have been fatalities, to conduct a prompt, professional, transparent and objective investigation in accordance with the highest international standards,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said on Thursday. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, suggested that international observers could possibly be attached to an internal Israeli probe.
He told the Ynet news website that he has proposed setting up a commission of inquiry, headed by a respected former Israeli Supreme Court judge. “If they’ll ask to include foreign observers, we’ll include them,” Lieberman said.
In Washington, Crowley said that over a period of weeks prior to Monday’s commando raid, US officials had advised Israeli officials to take a cautious approach to the aid flotilla. And he said officials from Israel and other countries have been contacted since Monday to advise restraint in any such confrontations in the future.
While stressing that US authorities in Turkey had met with Doğan’s father to express condolences and to offer US consular services, Clinton also said that two other American citizens had been injured -- one in the raid and the other during a subsequent protest -- and the US was seeking information about all three from Israel.
“Protecting the welfare of American citizens is a fundamental responsibility of our government and one that we take very seriously,” Clinton said. “We are in constant contact with the Israeli government attempting to obtain more information about our citizens.”
In her comments, Clinton did not identify the two Americans who had been injured.
But the State Department has confirmed that one of them, Emily Henochowicz, 21, lost an eye after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister shot by an Israeli border policeman during a demonstration in Jerusalem against the raid. She remains in hospital, Crowley said.
A broader problem for the Obama administration is what to do about the Israeli blockade of Gaza that the flotilla was trying to break through. The administration supports Israel’s view that measures must be taken to prevent, or at least minimize, the smuggling of weapons into Gaza that could be used to attack Israel.
But Clinton said in her remarks to reporters that the administration is searching for new answers. “We are evaluating ways of expanding the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza while protecting Israel’s legitimate security interests,” she said. She cited no examples of alternatives to the blockade.