'Palmer report: Gaza blockade legal, IDF force excessive'

'NY Times' obtains copy of UN report on 'Marmara' raid; says IDF commandos had right to defend themselves against hostile flotilla participants, but used "unreasonable" force leading to unnecessary deaths.

Mavi Marmara Raid 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mavi Marmara Raid 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The UN Palmer Commission report on the Mavi Marmara incident due to be handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday found that the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal, but IDF commandos exercised excessive force in the raid to prevent the Turkish flotilla from breaking the blockade in May 2010, according to The New York Times who obtained a copy of the report on Thursday.
The report acknowledges that the IDF commandos were presented with “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” upon boarding the vessel and therefore force was necessary for purposes of self defense. However the report contends that the force employed by the soldiers went beyond self defense and was "excessive and unreasonable,” leading to unnecessary deaths.
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The Palmer Commission writes of the Gaza blockade: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza...The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
The report was critical of the flotilla, referring to it as "reckless."
“There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH,” it states.
Turkey is also taken to task for not having done more to persuade flotilla participants to avoid armed conflict with Israeli soldiers.
Israeli commandos were not spared criticism by the drafters of the report. “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,” it says.
The report recommends that Israel make “an appropriate statement of regret" and pay compensation to Turkey.
Earlier on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that if Israel did not apologize for the incident by the time the report is released, Turkey will "put Plan B into play,"
Plan B refers to a threat made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month saying that if Israel did not apologize, Turkey would further downgrade ties with Israel and aggressively oppose it in international forums. The Turks have also threatened to cut economic ties as part of a "Plan B."
Davutoglu, referring to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent proposal – shot down by the Turks – to postpone the release of the commission report for another six months, said, "We cannot accept a six month extension.  The release date of the UN report is the last date for us. We will put Plan B into play if [there is] no apology."
Davutoglu's remarks were made in an interview with the Turkish newspapers Today's Zaman and Hurriyet.
Israel Radio quoted senior diplomatic sources as saying Thursday that Israel had decided that it would not apologize. A message to that effect was passed on to the Americans some two weeks ago.
The Prime Minister's Office, however, had no comment on the matter.
Today's Zaman reported that Davutoglu might return to Ankara from Paris Thursday evening to react to the release of the report. Although the report is expected to be delivered to Ban on Friday, it is not clear whether he will release it for publication on Friday, or wait until after the long US Labor Day weekend.
According to the report, Davutoglu said that "Turkey will impose sanctions which both Israel and other international parties are aware of."
Foreign Ministry officials who deal with the issue have been busy this week drawing up Israel's response, as well as coming up with talking points for Israel's diplomats abroad.
The report was written months ago and shown to both Israel and Turkey.