Bloomberg News

Turkey Will Challenge Israel’s Gaza Blockade at Hague Court

September 04, 2011

(Updates with Netanyahu quotes in fifth paragraph.)

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Turkey plans to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip at the International Court of Justice, dismissing a United Nations report that said it was legal.

Turkey will apply to the court at The Hague next week, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state-run TRT television in an interview yesterday. Davutoglu’s comments came the day after Turkey suspended military agreements with Israel and moved to downgrade diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has said it will take action against Israel for refusing to apologize for the killing of nine of its citizens on a flotilla to Gaza last year. It is also demanding compensation and the lifting of the blockade. Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defense and has expressed regret for the incident.

A UN report obtained by the New York Times and posted on its website last week said Israel used excessive force against the flotilla, though its blockade of Gaza was legal. Davutoglu told TRT that the report was written by politicians, not judges, and therefore didn’t have legal status.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that while his government regrets the deaths caused by the flotilla raid, “we need not apologize for the fact that naval commandos defended their lives against violent activists.”

Netanyahu added that Israel would defend the soldiers who took part in the flotilla raid “everywhere and in every forum.” His remarks to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem were sent in an e-mailed statement.

Vessel Boarding

Israel has said that in the confrontation followed numerous warnings for the ships to change course. It also said its soldiers were attacked with knives and clubs after boarding the Mavi Marmara, one of six vessels in the flotilla, and seven were wounded, including by gunfire, after volunteers aboard the ship grabbed Israeli firearms.

The UN report cited forensic evidence indicating that the dead were shot “multiple times,” including in the back or at close range. The findings also said Israeli soldiers faced “significant, organized and violent resistance” from a group of passengers on the vessel.

Israel says it needs to maintain a naval blockade on Gaza to prevent arms smuggling to the ruling Hamas Islamic movement, classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the United States. Palestinians say the blockade causes undue suffering on the entire population of Gaza and violates international law.

--Editors: James Kraus, Louis Meixler

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Bentley at mbentley3@bloomberg.net; Calev Ben-David at cbendavid@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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