Summary of Turkey’s National Investigation
The working part of the report begins with a summary of Turkey’s National Investigation which is based on 93 witness testimonies, autopsy reports of the dead, medical reports of 24 of the injured, forensic reports from inspections of the three Turkish vessels, and on board video footage. It declares that live fire from commandos against the Mavi Marmara commenced before boarding; passengers were deliberately withheld first aid after the ship’s capture; the blockade is illegal; the “humanitarian vessels’” of the flotilla were protected from attack under international humanitarian law so that physical resistance was a legitimate exercise of the right of self-defence; detainees were physically mistreated and psychologically abused on the ships; and there were violations of human rights and property rights.
Summary of Israel’s National Investigation
Israel’s summary was based on the Turkel Commission’s report for which the Panel notes that original material was not provided. It also observes that Turkel has completely ignored the report of the UNHRC FFM (to which it formed an opposing opinion on the legality of the blockade). Of further concern is the Panel’s careless reading of Turkel. In para. 47 (a) it refers to “statements by various United Nations organizations” supporting Turkel’s position that the conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip is an “international armed conflict”. In fact Turkel only cites the one UN report written by Special Rapporteur John Dugard in which the author declares that the Gaza Strip remains occupied territory. 
The Panel seems unaware that much of the Turkel report cannot be taken at face value. Thus it has copied that Israel “provides humanitarian aid in those areas that human rights organizations identify as a source of concern” (para. 47 (f)) when in fact members of the Commission agreed with Gisha’s representative Tamar Feldman on 13 October 2010 that Israel does not supply any humanitarian goods to the Palestinians.  Turkel’s assertion, again repeated by the Panel, that no humanitarian supplies were found on the remaining vessels is also false. 
Facts, Circumstances and Context of the Incident
The Naval Blockade
In para.70 it erroneously states that “the land crossings policy has been in place since long before the naval blockade was instituted” when in fact Ms Feldman explained to Turkel that all maritime commercial traffic to Gaza had been prohibited by varying procedures since the occupation began in 1967.  This gives the lie to the Panel’s statement later in the paragraph that “the naval blockade as a distinct legal measure was imposed primarily to enable a legally sound basis for Israel to exert control over ships attempting to reach Gaza with weapons and related goods.” The blockade was only imposed after the Free Gaza Movement began to sail regularly to Gaza during 2008 in defiance of Israeli restrictions. It was to prevent this humanitarian traffic that Israel applied the blockade which the UNHRC FFM has since declared to be illegal. It follows that the Panel’s reasoning in para.77 that the naval blockade was not imposed to punish the people of Gaza for the election of Hamas is unconvincing.
In supporting its position on Israel’s need to defend itself by imposing the blockade, the Panel make several references to the firing of rockets in Gaza. Yet these attacks do not occur in a vacuum. While the report refers (para. 78) to “countless attacks, which at the time of writing have once again become more extensive and intensive” it makes no mention of Israeli violence. [The “time of writing” was probably April 2011. The use of the word “countless” is unprofessional: accurate figures are available from both Israeli and Palestinian sources.] Palestinian casualties occur every week as a result of the occupation. For example in the week 14-20 April 2011 the Palestine Center for Human Rights recorded that one man died of wounds sustained the previous week when two artillery shells were fired into the Gaza Strip; windows were broken in a primary school when a warplane fired a missile onto neighbouring training site; gunboats directed shells and intensive fire at Palestinian fishing boats working well within the limits of recognised Palestinian territorial waters; farmers were fired at near the Israeli border. At the same time there was a renewal of the cooking gas crisis due to a unilaterally imposed crossing closure; the ban on all construction materials entering Gaza continued in force; while for 44 months prior to April 2011 the 710 Palestinian prisoners from Gaza who are detained (illegally) in Israeli jails have been denied their visitation rights without any justification. There is no excuse and no valid purpose for isolating Palestinian terror attacks from the context of the oppression suffered by Palestinians under the on-going Israeli occupation.
The Panel seek further justification for their position by referring to the absence of significant port facilities in Gaza. The description is correct but the analysis is faulty. Because a deep water port does not exist it does not imply that vessels cannot be handled there. In Tanga, the second largest port of Tanzania, shipping is unable to tie up at the quays and is served by lighters. The same could be done at Gaza, even though ships would have to anchor outside of the harbour. There is no reason to doubt that the ingenuity and the initiative of the Gazan people could make such a system work. At the same time plans for port facilities for Gaza could be revived if peaceful relations with Israel could be initiated. (A previous project to build a port at Gaza funded by the Dutch and French governments had to be abandoned after Israeli forces bombed the construction works in 2001. )
While the Panel is correct to state that the blockade does not have a significant humanitarian impact at present, it is the major limiting factor preventing the development of the port of Gaza and trade with other maritime nations. The Panel was in error to dismiss this from its deliberations, which calls into question their decision that the blockade was proportionate in the circumstances. (In fact the Panel queries its own decision in para. 72 where is records that it “is not persuaded that the naval blockade was a disproportionate measure for Israel to have taken in response to the threat it faced.”)
In para. 80 the Panel notes that an offer was made to
allow goods carried on the flotilla to enter Gaza via the Israeli port
of Ashdod. While this statement is correct it is also ignorant of
certain facts that the Panel should have ascertained. Humanitarian
cargos that have been forced to pass through Israel do not always arrive
at their destination intact. Substantial amounts of the humanitarian
cargo on the Tali, which was hijacked by Israeli forces in February 2009
did not reach Gaza.  Even the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which was under
the gaze of the world’s media, has had much of its cargo misdirected. A
small quantity is recorded to have gone into landfill.  Mobility
scooters had their batteries withheld , brand new computers for
educational use were stolen by Israeli operatives  and the fate of
prefabricated buildings and construction materials which constituted
more than half of the total cargos is still unaccounted for.  The
reality is that transferring goods through Israeli ports is not a
The Panel’s conclusions that the blockade is legal
are based on false points and therefore suspect. In observing that the
UNHRC FFM reached an opposing conclusion it observes that the FFM did
not receive information from Israel. (Unlike the Panel however the FFM
did read the Turkel protocols available to it.) However it does not
allow for the fact that it has accepted false information from Israel in
reaching its own conclusions. The FFM was equipped with a large support
team so that its own very senior lawyers who are experienced in
international criminal law were supplemented by experts in the law of
the sea and international humanitarian law.  In addition it met with
a number of non-governmental organizations, had assistance from law
firms in three countries, and was thoroughly briefed on the situation in
Gaza by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The
UN Panel did not have the services of anyone with expertise in
international criminal or maritime law and did not conduct interviews of
its own. That it should now criticise its more senior and better
equipped counterparts in the UNHRC is an indication of the unreal world
in which it has functioned.
The Panel finished by emphasizing (in para. 81) the
principle of the freedom of navigation and recommends that this be borne
in mind by Israel in applying and enforcing its naval blockade. It is
unclear what this means. It appears to suggest that Israel might allow
some passage of shipping through the blockade area. Yet such actions
would be invalid under the San Remo Agreement which requires that all
passage is denied without exception.
The Panel’s reasoning is the result of muddled thinking based on inaccurate assessments of actual circumstances. This contrasts with the opinion of Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the UN whose responsibilities at the Department of Political Affairs include the Division for Palestinian Rights. Speaking at the UN Security Council after the raid Mr Fernandez-Taranco expressed the opinion that the “bloodshed would have been avoided if repeated calls on Israel to end the counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza had been heeded. “ 
The Actions of the Flotilla
In considering the composition of the flotilla the panel is critical of the number of passengers and journalists it carried (para. 89); seemingly unaware of the importance of publicity to humanitarian activity. While international media outlets such as the BBC are notoriously reluctant to report on the plight of the Palestinians, it is especially important that any media outlet prepared to report the story is given every opportunity to do so. Previous sailings by the Free Gaza Movement had resulted in one boat being deliberately rammed three times on the high seas, and another being illegally seized( before the blockade had been gazetted).The importance of journalists reporting these crimes cannot be overstated. The complaint also overlooks the importance of solidarity to the people of Gaza in their enclosure, and fails to acknowledge that many of the passengers were carrying large sums of money for charitable causes along with personal presents and good wishes for orphans and individuals.  Psychological assistance should not be undervalued or belittled.
Similarly the Panel’s criticism that seeking to breach the blockade with so many passengers was a dangerous and reckless act (para. 93) overlooks the fact that only one journalist appears to have complained about the policies of the flotilla management or the exposure of passengers to needless peril.  Many of the activists tried to return on the second flotilla, and in a number of cases their spouses also expressed a desire to join them in any future attempt to break the siege. The complaint aired by the Panel is unrealistic and unrepresentative of the people who participated.
The Panel records that there were intense diplomatic efforts undertaken to try to avoid the confrontation (paras. 98-102), and records that the Turkish government felt unable to prevent a private initiative from legally departing from its ports. The two governments differ in their version of the discussions with regard to whether the flotilla had intended to divert to Al-Arish in the event that it became clear that it was impossible to reach Gaza. The Israeli government denies the Turkish claim that this agreement was reached between them. One important point has not been mentioned in the report however. Despite Turkel’s assertion (section 125) that the Mavi Marmara did not make any noticeable attempt to change course, data from the Marine Traffic website indicates that the ship began to accelerate and change course to a more westerly direction at about 04:35 (i.e. the change was discernable only five minutes into the attack). By 04:59 it was recorded to be travelling nearly due west on 276° at 12.6 knots (having increased its speed from 7.4 knots before the start of the attack).  Since the first action of the ship after the inception of the attack was to turn away from Gaza and attempt to run it seems reasonable to ask whether there was any real purpose or justification in pressing home the attack at this point.
The Israeli Boarding and Take-over Operation
Without apparently being aware of this change of course the Panel is nonetheless very critical of the Israeli attack. It questions whether it was reasonable to board the vessels so far out at sea and at night and notes that no warning had been given and no attempt made to demand the right to board. Having considered the options available to the assailants the report finally concludes in para. 112 that in jamming all radio signals and timing the attack for just before dawn the assailants were motivated by a desire to avoid publicity. Its conclusion from this is unequivocal and will be very embarrassing for the Israeli government: “Israel’s decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable”.
The Use of Force on the Mavi Marmara
The Panel records that there is conflicting material on many key points of the take-over and declares that it may never be possible to find out what precisely occurred. Yet on one important issue it might have shed some light had it been more aware of the available evidence. Witness testimonies from the Mavi Marmara have said that there was firing from the first helicopter before any commando boarded the ship. Israel denies this. Infrared footage released by the IDF shows the earliest phase of the attack from the speedboats positioned at the rear of the ship followed by a sequence from the aerial lookout showing the first ropes lowered from the first helicopter where one of the ropes is tied up and rendered unusable. It is reasonable to assume that the actions in between were recorded by both the aerial lookout and the Shaldag-class command vessel observing and directing the operations. This would mean Israel has film of the helicopter when commandos are accused of firing into the passengers on the upper decks – a blatant war crime- and rather than release it has chosen to pretend it does not exist.
The Panel in its terms of reference was empowered to “request such clarifications and information as it may require from relevant national authorities”. In other words it could have asked for this film. It may not have got it, but that alone would have revealed something about this critical point in the operation when both sides are accusing the other of initiating the violent brawl that subsequently occurred. (They could also have asked for good copies of the subsequent events when activists are accused of firing at the soldiers. This also should be visible on footage that Israel has, but has for some reason been reluctant to reveal.) That the Panel appears to have missed the opportunity to have discovered new information on this most critical episode in the raid speaks volumes about their competence and lack of application.
One small nugget of information has appeared however. The annexes to the Turkish report contain an enormous wealth of information that has not been made public. Occasionally the report reveals small insights on this data as occurs here. In para.122 it is stated “Photographs show bullet marks on the funnel of the vessel, which appear consistent with firing from above.” This reveals a little bit more evidence about firing from the helicopters, even though as the report tells us, we do not know when these shots were fired. As the panel suggest, it is possible that there was firing on the navigation deck (the top deck) while the mêlée was occurring. This could explain the gunshot wounds to the two soldiers. There are other scenarios, but either way the most likely cause of these injuries has always been friendly fire, particularly when both casualties were hit by 9mm ammunition, the same calibre used by the Glocks, Uzis and carbines carried by the commandos in this raid.
The capture of three Israeli commandos was an
important event and the Panel declares itself satisfied (para. 125) that
the three soldiers were “captured, mistreated and placed at risk during
the incident.” Unfortunately the evidence which satisfied the Panel
(and which was submitted by the Israeli representative) is not in the
public domain. Given that the Panel members have already shown their
gullibility to Israel distortions it would have been helpful to have
been able to check the evidence. The Panel’s report is remarkably
succinct on this matter given the severity of the charges. It is known
that the soldiers received attention from medical staff despite the fact
that they were very busy by this time with far more serious injuries,
including some casualties who subsequently died. There is photographic
evidence of an activist with a club repelling a photographer who was
trying to photograph one of the soldiers (contrary to Geneva Convention
IV) while blurred in the background it is possible to discern Dr Uysal
and Murat Akinan who in another photograph can be seen tending the
injured man’s wounds. Earlier photographs show this soldier being
forcefully restrained as he is brought down from the fourth deck. The
soldiers by their own admission were scared and were struggling,
although it does seem that they became more reassured after they had
been seen by medical staff. 
Claims that the soldiers were taken to the lower lounge on the second deck (which had been used as the women’s sleeping area) are borne out by one photograph of the junior officer who was captured lying unrestrained and apparently unthreatened, on one of the lounge chairs. Although there is testimony from another passenger that a large man did try to attack one of the captives as he was being brought down from the bridge deck the witness said that the assailant was quickly pushed aside and scolded for his violence while the soldier was quickly taken away from the area.  The Turkel report is dishonest on this subject in that evidence from Muhammed Zeidan that is recorded in the Hebrew version of the protocols is nowhere alluded to in the report. Mr Zeidan told the Commission that he had seen one of the soldiers taken into a separate room where he knew there was a doctor. The witness had said that the captors had held the soldier to take care of him, but that he did not see any attack on the captive. Turkel does not report this evidence, and the Panel seems to be remarkably ignorant of the honourable behaviour of at least some of the organizers and medical staff.
Other new evidence to be disclosed to the public appeared in a comment that one activist holding a fire hose (said in the footnotes to be believed to be Cengiz Songür) was seen in a video to be killed by a single shot to the head or throat fired from a speedboat. This tends to support testimony by journalist Jamal Elshayyal who said that live fire began from the speedboats and helicopters simultaneously.  This testimony appears to have been rejected by the UNHRC FFM which did not record it.
Following a general comment about the use of the wide variety of weapons on the other boats even though there was no armed violent resistance, the report concludes this section. It considered that the deaths and injuries from the Israeli violence were unacceptable and that no satisfactory explanation had been provided by Israel for any of the deaths. It added “Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel”. This important criticism with its implications of serious wrongdoing and unlawful behaviour will provide further concern for Israel.
Treatment of the Passengers After the Take-Over Was Completed
The Panel found that the 93 witnesses who gave
evidence to the Turkish report were generally more consistent on this
matter than anything else and that there are good grounds to believe
that there was significant mistreatment of passengers by Israeli
authorities following capture of the vessels. The abuse included the
application of over tight hand cuffs for prolonged periods including to
people who were injured, denial of the use of toilet facilities, denial
of access to medication and being given only limited access to food and
The report questions the need for repeated searches and expresses concern over allegations of beatings at Ben-Gurion Airport, as well as the lack of non-Hebrew forms for passengers to sign. It declares that passengers were denied timely consular or legal assistance. The seizure of personal property was regarded by the Panel as lacking legitimate grounds. Of particular importance is the fact that the Israeli report did not address any of these matters in great detail. The Panel did find that appropriate medical treatment was provided as soon as circumstances allowed. However this would appear to refute the evidence of the captain of the Mavi Marmara who reported that he had asked several times for medical assistance for passengers on the lower deck who needed immediate emergency medical aid, but that he had been told that this would not be provided unless the engines were restarted. (The crew had turned off the engines and there was a long delay before they could be restarted.)  The Panel concluded that there had been significant mistreatment of passengers by the Israeli authorities including physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified seizure of belongings and denial of timely consular assistance.
How to Avoid Similar Incidents in the Future
The Panel notes that UN Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) 478 called for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, while calling on Member States to support international efforts to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation in the territory. The report goes on to declare that Israel has taken significant steps to ease restrictions on goods entering Gaza since the flotilla raid and on 8 December 2010 announced that it would allow exports from Gaza. In so doing the Panel displays incredible ignorance of the situation in Gaza which is central to its study, and a naïve willingness to believe any information it is given without making checks on its validity. For example it seems unaware of a report by the International Federation for Human Rights published in November 2010 which reported on the failure of Israel to apply key commitments it had made to ease the closure of Gaza, especially by accelerating imports of construction materials for UN and other international projects such as schools, health centres, houses and sewage plants.  With regard to exports from Gaza, the Panel should have been aware at the time of the report’s publication in July that no exports have been allowed from the Strip since 12 May this year. 
In the context of Israel’s contemptuous disregard for its promises and obligations towards the people of Gaza the Panel’s recommendation in para. 156 that “those wishing to provide assistance should work through established procedures and use designated land crossings “[n.b. there is only one crossing currently functioning for goods into Gaza at present] demonstrates yet again its failure to understand reality, and represents another failure by the international community to honour its responsibilities towards the people of Gaza.
In seeking rapprochement between the two sides the report suggests that Israel “should express regret” for its blatant war crimes, and pay benefit to the deceased and injured victims and their families. A resumption of full diplomatic relations and a political round table to exchange views in the future is advocated.
In separate statements in an appendix Mr Ciechanover and Mr Sanberk expressed their disagreements with the Chairmanship’s findings and recommendations.
Mr Ciechanover said that Israel does not concur with the description of the decision to board the vessels in a manner that was “excessive and unreasonable”. He considered that given the circumstances the soldiers had “responded reasonably, proportionally and with restraint”. He also declared that the treatment of the detainees was “reasonable and compatible with international standards” and that placing reliance on some passenger statements was “particularly problematic”. However his hope that the Panel’s work will assist Israel and Turkey in finding a path back to cooperation seemed to have been thoroughly repudiated on 2 September when the Government of Turkey announced that it would be downgrading their diplomatic relations with Israel following the latter government’s refusal to issue an apology for the raid.
Mr Sanberk registered his disagreement on the issues of legality of the Gaza blockade; the actions of the flotilla; naval blockades in general; and the applicable International legal principles addressed in the appendix. He wrote that the wording of the report did not satisfactorily describe the extent of the atrocities committed in consequence of which he rejected and dissociated himself from the relevant parts of the report.
For the authors of this report there is little to be
pleased about. Their ultimate goal has been described as “positively
affect[ing] the relationship between Turkey and Israel, as well as the
overall situation in the Middle East”. This was always a difficult
call. Nevertheless some amelioration of the diplomatic situation might
have been hoped for. The immediate aftermath to the release of this
report has seen a strong reaction in Turkey to the refusal of the
Israeli Government to apologise for the deaths and injuries to Turkish
citizens. Turkey will now downgrade its diplomatic and economic
relations with Israel and seems intent on dramatically upgrading its
support for the people of Gaza.
 Ravid, Barak, 4 September 2011; ‘Israel hopes to overcome crisis with Turkey, but won't apologize for Gaza flotilla raid'
 Daly, John C.K., 10 September 2007; Colombia, Israel and Rogue Mercenaries; http://mexidata.info/id1524.html
 Kelly, John J., undated; Blair, Howard and er Ulribe honoured in Bush medal ceremony; THUS.
 Turkel Committee Protocols, 7 November 2010.
 Lightbown, Richard, March 2011; Deconstructing Turkel; p55. http://www.redress.cc/palestine/rlightbown20110308
 Turkel Committee Protocols, 7 November 2010.
 Tillekens, Nikki, 1 September 2010; Destroyed Gaza Seaport: Why Doesn’t Dutch Government Demand Compensation from Israel? The Alternative Information Center. http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/economy-of-the-occupation/2840-destroyed-gaza-seaport-why-doesnt-dutch-government-demand-compensation-from-israel-
 cbcnews, 5 February 2009; Israel seizes Lebanese ship heading for Gaza.
 Al Mansar, 13 June 2010; Israël enterre les aides alimentaires destinées à Gaza.
 Ma’an News Agency, 6 June 2010; Hamas refuses boat aid while activists detained.
 Farooq Burney, 23 August 2010; pers.comm
 Email enquiries to UNSCOP have failed to produce any information as to whether these materials ever reached Gaza.
 Human Rights Council fact-finding mission report, 27 September 2010; A/HRC/15/21 p3
 UN Security Council SC/9940, 31 May 2010; Security Council 6325th & 6326th Meetings (PM & Night). 2010May2010http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2010/sc9940.doc.htm
 Mavi Marmara Tanıkları - Mine Karakaş.
 M. Şefik Dinç, 2010; Kanli Mavi Marmara; Kalkedon, Ch. 3 (anonymous translation from Turkish into English)
 Ali Abunimah, 7 June 2010; Did Israel Press on with Bloody Attack on Mavi Marmara even as Ship Fled at Full- Speed. http://aliabunimah.posterous.com/mavi-marmara-was-heading-away-from-israelgaza#more
 Lightbown, Richard, March 2011; Deconstructing Turkel; p46. http://www.redress.cc/palestine/rlightbown20110308
 Kevin Neish, pers. comm. 22 February 2011
 Free Gaza Team, 7 June 2010; In their Own Words: Survivor Testimonies from Flotilla 31 May 2010, Jamal Elshayyal. http://www.freegaza.org/en/testimonies-from-israeli-jail/1221-in-their-own-words-survivor-testimonies-from-flotilla-31-may-2010
 Insani Yardim Vakfi, undated; Captain of The Mavi Marmara Recounts Attack On Flotilla.
 Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, undated; Access Policy; http://www.gisha.org/content-moduls.asp?lang_id=en&p_id=1232
 Human Rights Council fact-finding mission report, 27 September 2010; A/HRC/15/21 p4.