WASHINGTON – The US government confirmed on Wednesday that the Turkish aid organization behind the ship Israel commandeered Monday had contacts with Hamas, and expressed deep concern over that relationship.
The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, though officials noted yesterday that the Turkish aid group, Insani Yardim Vakfi,
known by its Turkish initials IHH, had not been designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
“We know that IHH representatives have met with senior Hamas officials in Turkey, Syria and Gaza over the past three years,” State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday. “That is obviously of great concern to us.”
However, when it came to reports that IHH has ties to Al Qaida, Crowley said that was something the US “cannot validate.”
Crowley on Wednesday also reaffirmed US support for a “prompt,
credible, transparent, impartial” investigation into the incident led
by Israel, with the possibility of international participation, despite
calls from many countries for an independent process.
“We continue to believe that Israel is in the best position to lead
this investigation,” he said. “We will continue to talk to Israel and
other countries about possible international participation.” But he
would not address whether the IDF-led investigation that Israel plans
would satisfy the American demands.
“We support an investigation that meets international standards. There
are a number of ways of doing that. We’ll be talking to Israel about
how it can best lead an investigation that is widely viewed as credible
by the international community,” he said. “I’m not going to prejudge
how the investigation proceeds.”
He, did, though reject the idea of a fact-finding mission led by the UN Human Rights Council
, which the council approved over a no vote by the United States.
“Before there’s even an opportunity for investigation, this resolution
put the complete responsibility on Israel. We thought that was
inappropriate,” he explained. “We thought this was a rush to judgment.”
When pressed on why Israel would be the best body to lead the
investigation, given that it is the country accused of wrongdoing,
Crowley replied that “Israel is a vibrant democracy. It has effective,
competent institutions of government, and Israel is fully capable of
investigating a matter than involved its forces.”
He concluded, “Can Israel conduct a fair, transparent, credible, investigation? The answer is yes.