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International court to explore investigating Israeli flotilla raid

International court to explore investigating Israeli flotilla raid
The Mavi Marmara, the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip, heads for the port of Ashdod, Israel, in May 2010 after being stormed by Israeli commandos in a predawn confrontation.
(Ariel Schalit / Associated Press)

JERUSALEM -- The International Criminal Court will hold a preliminary inquiry to decide whether a full investigation into Israel’s deadly 2010 raid on a Turkish ship will be opened, according to a court statement Tuesday. 

In May 2010, Israeli naval commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel that was the lead ship in a flotilla seeking to break the naval blockade Israel imposed on the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.

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The incident turned violent and nine activists aboard the ship, mostly Turks, were killed. The clash dealt a near-fatal blow to relations between Israel and Turkey, onetime allies who were already at odds over Israel’s Gaza policies. 

The rupture was eased by President Obama during his visit to Israel in March, when he brokered a phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

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Netanyahu’s apology led to a reconciliation process still underway, as Israel and Turkish delegates negotiate issues of Israeli compensation and lawsuits filed in Turkey by victims’ families.

Last week, the two sides reached a draft agreement, local media reported.

The referral to the prosecutor at the Hague-based International Criminal court was filed by the Elmadag law firm in Istanbul on behalf of the government of the Comoros, the African island state under whose flag the Mavi Marmara had sailed. Neither Israel nor Turkey (nor, for that matter, the United States) have signed the Rome Statute that governs the court.

In her statement, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office would conduct a preliminary investigation “to establish whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met.”

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Several Israeli panels have investigated the interception of the flotilla, one drawing conclusions highly critical of Netanyahu’s handling of the raid, and a United Nations inquiry published its report in July 2011. 

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