Netanyahu testifying in front of Gaza flotilla probe panel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun his testimony in front of panel investigating Israel's raid of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla on Monday, in the first such testimony before the investigative committee's headed by former justice Jacob Turkel, Haaretz reported.
In his opening remarks, the premier reiterated what he saw as the importance of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, saying that the measure was intended to stop shipments of arms from arriving at the Hamas-ruled Strip.
Netanyahu added that the world was bent on considering the situation in Gaza as a humanitarian crisis, even though there had been photos published of Gaza market stalls filled "to the brim" with food.
On May 31, Israeli Navy commandos boarded one of the flotilla ships, occupied mainly by IHH activists, in efforts to prevent the ship from reaching Gaza in violation of an Israeli naval blockade. Aboard the ship, the commandos were met with violence and a clash ensued, resulting in the deaths of 9 Turkish activists.
The panel investigating the raid on a the Turkish Gaza flotilla was recently granted greater authority after Turkel told the government the committee could not do its job without expanded investigative powers.
Until the change in the committee's mandate, the panel was only supposed to determine whether Israel's efforts to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza accorded with international law, and whether the soldiers' use of force was proportionate.
It had no power to subpoena witnesses and cannot draw personal conclusions against those involved in the raid.
However, following Turkel's demand to turn the panel into a full-fledged governmental inquiry committee with real teeth, the committee was granted the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, warn those who testify before it that the panel's findings could harm them, and hire outside experts in relevant fields.
The committee does, however, have the authority to subpoena IDF soldiers.
Soldiers and officers instead testified before the internal army probe into the raid's operational aspects that was headed by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland, who is scheduled to present his findings to the Turkel Committee.