IDF gearing up to legally defend ‘Marmara’ soldiers

Turkish paper lists names of IDF troops, officers allegedly involved in raid; Erdogan: Israel killed "hundreds of thousands of Palestinians."

Mavi Marmara Raid 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mavi Marmara Raid 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF is taking legal precautions to protect soldiers and officers who participated in the operation to stop the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger ship, senior defense officials said on Monday after Turkish news reports claimed intelligence agencies had compiled a list identifying 174 soldiers who could be prosecuted for their involvement in the operation.
The Istanbul deputy public prosecutor Ates Shasan Sozen later told the Today’s Zaman newspaper that the list was compiled by IHH, the organization that organized the Gaza flotilla, and not by Turkish intelligence.
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Earlier Monday, the Sabah newspaper wrote that the names were acquired by Turkish intelligence agencies that had studied social connections on Facebook and Twitter, as well as photographs on those websites with ones taken on board the Mavi Marmara.
The list of 174 names was transferred to Turkish prosecutors, in addition to pictures of 10 IDF soldiers the paper said could not be identified.
Included on the list were not only those IDF soldiers who participated directly in the operation to stop the Gaza flotilla, but also senior IDF officers.
The list reportedly includes commandos from the navy’s Flotilla 13 – better known as the “Shayetet” – as well as their commanders, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Earlier this month, the IDF Military Advocate General’s office established a joint team with the Justice Ministry to study the Palmer Report, which justified Israel’s decision to impose a sea blockade on the Gaza Strip but also harshly criticized the navy’s operation to stop the Gaza-bound flotilla.
The report said that “the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the takeover of the Mavi Marmara was unacceptable.”
The team is studying the legal consequences of the report and possible ways to provide protections to IDF soldiers. Due to this threat, Barak had tried to broker a compromise with Turkey in an effort to minimize the legal exposure to the commandos.
A senior IDF officer said at the time that the Palmer Report could potentially serve as the basis for criminal lawsuits against the commandos who boarded the ship as well as additional senior IDF officers, including commander of the navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom and the chief of general staff at the time, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, for their role in the operation.
Both officers are already vulnerable to legal action due to their involvement in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip two years ago.
On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of having killed “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians” and showing “no mercy,” while at the same time touting his own role as leader not only of the Turkish people but the entire Arab world.
In an interview that aired Sunday, Erdogan told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that Israelis “say that Palestine is bombing and disturbing the people of Israel and many Israelis have been killed... I would like to see accurate statistics of how many Israelis have been killed by the bombs thrown by Palestinians or with the rockets that were launched by them. Ten, 20, 100, 200? How many? Please document it. Let us know.
“But on the other hand, we know that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Only as a result of the Gaza attack, thousands of people were killed,” he said.
The Turkish premier also accused Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for its own gain.
“The Israeli people are only resorting back to the issue of genocide in history. And using that genocide, they are always acting as if they are the victims all the time,” he said.
“We said, for that, go ask Germany to pay its dues and they have. So Germany has paid and is still paying its dues to Israel. But neither Turkey nor the Muslims in the region have such a problem.
They have never exerted such cruelty on Israel. But Israel is very cruel in that regard. It shows no mercy.”
A day later, Erdogan said he has no choice but to demand an apology from Israel for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens in the May raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla. The Turkish leader has also demanded Israel pay compensation to the families of those killed, and lift the nearly three-year blockade on the Hamas-run territory.
In an interview with US public radio station NPR, Erdogan said, “Never forget that as a prime minister, as a leader of my country, I’m carrying a responsibility. I’m not only speaking about the 74 million inhabitants who are living in Turkey, who are my citizens... but also the entire population of the Arab world that expects our reaction and our response on this issue.
“They will always observe whether I’m taking ownership of my citizens who have been killed on board a ship navigating in international territorial waters or not,” Erdogan said.
“This is a duty for me. This is an obligation.”