A court in Turkey on Monday formally charged four senior Israeli military commanders over the death of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in an Israeli commando operation on board a Gaza-bound aid ship in 2010.
The Israelis charged by the Turkish court on Monday were ex-military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, ex-naval chief Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, former head of military intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin, and former head of the air force Brigadier General Avishai Lev.
The four Israelis are now expected to be tied in absentia in Turkey. But if they are convicted, the Turkish court could issue an international warrant for their arrest. According to Turkish media, prosecutors have called for life sentences for the four Israelis.
The development follows the death of nine Turks in a deadly Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May 2010. The flotilla was trying to breach an Israeli blockade enforced on the Palestinian territory. Relations between Israel and Turkey are currently strained over Israel's refusal to formally apologize over the incident.
Turkey had earlier demanded an official apology from Israel over the issue and compensation for the families of the Turks killed in the attack, but the Jewish nation refused to bow to the Turkish demand. Several meetings between Israeli and Turkish diplomats had failed to resolve the issue. Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives, but refuses to apologize.
Relations between the two nations has been frozen since the incident took place. Turkey had expelled the Israeli ambassador and downgraded diplomatic ties with the Jewish nation soon after a UN-commissioned panel released its report on the incident in September 2011.
The UN report blamed Israel for using "excessive and unreasonable" force in its attempts to prevent the aid flotilla from reaching Gaza and Turkey for "failing to warn flotilla participants of "the potential risks involved and dissuade them from their actions."
The UN inquiry report found that Israel's blockade of Gaza was "a legitimate security measure," and said that Israeli troops had faced "significant, organized and violent resistance" when they boarded the ship. It also found that the six-vessel flotilla had "acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade" set up by Israel around Gaza.
Despite Turkey's standing demand for a formal apology from Israel over the deadly aid flotilla raid, the UN report only urged Israel to make "an appropriate statement of regret in respect of the incident in light of its consequences" and to offer payment for the benefit of the deceased and injured victims and their families.
Ankara has since pledged to legally challenge against the UN report at the International Court of Justice over its conclusion that that Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip "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".
by RTT Staff Writer
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