Turkish prosecutor requests names of Israeli flotilla attackers
Raided by Israeli commandos last year, the Gaza-bound Mavi Mamara being escorted to the port of Ashdod.
A Turkish prosecutor has written to Israeli authorities requesting information on the identities of the Israeli soldiers who killed nine Turkish civilians on the Mavi Marmara passenger ship in international waters in May of last year, news reports said on Friday.
The prosecutor has requested the full names and the residential addresses of the military and government officials who gave the orders in addition to the information of those who carried out the orders.
Israel raided the Mavi Marmara, which was part of an international flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza in a campaign to breach the blockade on Gaza on May 31, 2010. Eight Turks and an American-Turkish teenager were killed in the attack. The incident, which took place outside of Israeli water space, aggravated relations between former allies Turkey and Israel, which were already tense over increasingly vocal Turkish criticism of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. Turkey recalled its ambassador and pushed for international condemnation of Israel.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and Naval Forces Commander Eliezer Meron have suspect status in the Turkish prosecution's investigation. The prosecutor has spoken to about 500 activists who were on the ship and recently sent a two-page document to the Israeli Ministry of Justice through the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, detailing the mistreatment of volunteers at the hands of Israeli rangers conducting the raid.
Many of the activists on the ship had filed complaints against Israel, claiming that they had been poisoned by the food they were given by the Israeli soldiers after they were captured in the raid. However, the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) has yet to send the plaintiffs' blood test results to the prosecutor's office, although a full year has passed since the incident.
Pro-Israeli congressmen write to Erdoğan
In related developments, a group of members of the US Congress submitted a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urging him to "help work out a mechanism with Israel to allow legitimate humanitarian assistance to go to Gaza without provoking a needless confrontation," The Weekly Standard reported on Thursday.
The congressmen expressed serious concerns over reports that the “so-called Free Gaza Movement” and the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), the organizer of the first flotilla, are planning to send another flotilla to Gaza in the coming weeks to provoke a confrontation with Israel.
“As members of the United States House of Representatives, we ask you to help discourage these efforts and work with the Israeli government in a productive way as it continues to allow legitimate aid, but not weapons, to enter Gaza,” the letter said.
The members of Congress alleged that the government of Israel has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring the basic needs of those living in the Gaza Strip are being met and that over the last year the capacity of existing land crossings had been increased, citing as an example the capacity of the Kerem Shalom crossing increasing by 210 percent.
The letter recalled that more than 3,600 supply trucks had entered Gaza in the month of March alone, delivering tens of thousands of tons of goods, including food, clothing, medicine and fuel. It said over the past year, agricultural exports from the Gaza Strip have gradually increased and economic growth in Gaza reached 15 percent in 2010.
“These are all clear signs that Israeli policies are making a positive impact on the lives of the Palestinian people,” the Congress members underlined.
According to the letter, Israel, like any country in the world, must take whatever steps necessary to protect its citizens and that starts with preventing additional weapons from entering Gaza. It said if flotilla organizers carry out their confrontational plans, the Israelis will have little choice but to board the vessels and search for weapons. “We fear violence could erupt just as it did last year.”
The members of Congress called for Erdoğan's active participation in finding a resolution that prevents violence and hoped that his government can help work out a mechanism with Israel to allow “legitimate” humanitarian assistance to go to Gaza without provoking a confrontation.
“We are confident that Israel, as it has in the past, will continue to allow such aid to flow, subject to appropriate security screening. By finding a constructive solution as an alternative to another flotilla, you have a unique opportunity to potentially save lives and be a force for stability at a particularly volatile time,” the letter concluded. According to the report, Representatives Steve Israel, Tom Cole, Howard L. Berman, Henry A. Waxman, Jason Chaffetz, Denny Rehberg, Gary L. Ackerman, Henry Cuellar, Shelley Berkley, Mike Quigley, Joseph Crowley, Mike Ross, Theodore E. Deutch, Gene Green, Steve Scalise, Renee L. Ellmers, Richard L. Hanna, Ted Poe, Sue Wilkins Myrick, Heath Shuler, Lynn Jenkins, Reid J. Ribble, Adam B. Schiff, Steven R. Rothman, Carolyn B. Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Shelley Moore Capito, Janice D. Schakowsky, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Christopher S. Murphy, Mike Kelly, Bill Johnson, Doug Lamborn, Jean Schmidt and Joe Barton signed the letter.