It has been a long time since I wrote anything about the Israeli raid on the Turkish aid ship attempting to break the siege on Gaza in June. Since then, Israel has lifted the blockade slightly in response to international pressure and the UN has released its investigative report on the event. The report concluded that the IDF broke international law by where and how the Israeli military boarded the ship, leaving seven activists dead. Specifically, the report contradicts the Israeli claim that the soldiers had not shot live ammunition from helicopters:
The Mission does not find it plausible that soldiers were holding their weapons and firing as they descended on the rope. However, it has concluded that live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers.
[tweetmeme] Furthermore, the mission completely disregarded the Israeli claim that passengers had firm arms or used fire arms taken from IDF soldiers, saying “Further, the Mission finds that the Israeli accounts so inconsistent and contradictory with regard to evidence of alleged firearms injuries to Israeli soldiers that it has to reject it.” It must be noted though that Israel refused to cooperate with the UN report, thus withholding evidence that could have been used to clear Israel’s name.
On the activist side, the report does note that “[w]hilst the Mission is satisfied that the flotilla constituted a serious attempt to bring essential humanitarian supplies into Gaza, it seems clear that the primary objective was political.” The report adds, though, that “the fact that some passengers engaged in last minute efforts to fashion rudimentary weapons shortly prior to the interception confirms the findings of the Mission that no weapons were brought on board the ship.”
As for those who were killed by the IDF, the report offers this summary on pages 30-31:
Furkan Dogan, a nineteen-year old with dual Turkish and United States citizenship, was on the central area of the top deck filming with a small video camera when he was first hit with live fire. It appears that he was lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time. In total Furkan received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back. The other wounds were not the result of firing in contact, near contact or close range, but it is not otherwise possible to determine the exact firing range. The wounds to the leg and foot were most likely received in a standing position.
Ibrahim Bilgen, a 60 year old Turkish citizen, from Siirt in Turkey, was on the top deck and was one of the first passengers to be shot. He received a bullet wound to the chest, the trajectory of which was from above and not at close range. He had a further two bullet wounds to the right side of the back and right buttock, both back to front. These wounds would not have caused instant death, but he would have bled to death within a short time without medical attention. Forensic evidence shows that he was shot in the side of the head with a soft baton round at such close proximity and that an entire bean bag and its wadding penetrated the skull and lodged in the brain. He had a further bruise on the right flank consistent with another beanbag wound. The wounds are consistent with the deceased initially being shot from soldiers on board the helicopter above and receiving a further wound to the head while lying on the ground, already wounded.
Fahri Yaldiz, a 42 year old Turkish citizen from Adiyaman, received five bullet wounds, one to the chest, one to the left leg and three to the right leg. The chest wound was caused by a bullet that entered near the left nipple and hit the heart and lungs before exiting from the shoulder. This injury would have caused rapid death.
According to the pathology report, Ali Heyder Bengi, a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Diyarbakir, received six bullet wounds (one in the chest, one in the abdomen, one in the right arm, one in the right thigh and two in the left hand). One bullet lodged in the chest area. None of the wounds would have been instantly fatal, but damage to the liver caused bleeding which would have been fatal if not stemmed. There are several witness accounts which suggest that Israeli soldiers shot the deceased in the back and chest at close range while he was lying on the deck as a consequence of initial bullet wounds.
Cevdet Kiliçlar, a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Istanbul, was on the Mavi Marmara, in his capacity as a photographer employed by IHH. At the moment he was shot he was standing on the bridge deck on the port side of the ship near to the door leading to the main stairwell and was attempting to photograph Israeli soldiers on the top deck. According to the pathology reports, he received a single bullet to his forehead between the eyes. The bullet followed a horizontal trajectory which crossed the middle of the brain from front to back. He would have died instantly.
41 year old Cengiz Akyüz from Hatay and 46 year old Cengiz Songür from Izmir, both Turkish citizens, were injured on the bridge deck in close succession by live fire from above. They had been sheltering and were shot as they attempted to move inside the door leading to the stairwell. Cengiz Akyüz received a shot to the head and it is probable that he died instantly.
The pathology report shows four wounds: to the neck, face, chest and thigh. Cengiz Songür received a single bullet to the upper central thorax below the neck, shot from a high angle, which lodged in the right thoracic cavity injuring the heart and aorta. Unsuccessful efforts were made by doctors inside the ship to resuscitate him through heart massage.
Çetin Topçuoglu, a 54 year old Turkish citizen from Adana had been involved in helping to bring injured passengers inside the ship to be treated. He was also shot close to the door on the bridge deck. He did not die instantly and his wife, who was also on board the ship, was with him when he died. He was shot by three bullets. One bullet entered from the top the soft tissues of the right side of the back of the head, exited from the neck and then re-entered into the thorax. Another bullet entered the left buttock and lodged in the right pelvis. The third entered the right groin and exited from the lower back. There are indications that the victim may have been in a crouching or bending position when this wound was sustained.
The location and circumstances of the shooting and death of Necdet Yildirim, a 31 year old Turkish citizen from Istanbul, remain unclear. He was shot twice in the thorax, once from the front and once from the back. The trajectory of both bullets was from top to bottom. He also received bruises consistent with plastic bullet impact.
The report is a harrowing view of what actually occurred that night. It is clear that the confrontation could have been more peaceful had the activists simply surrendered to the Israelis and, indeed, actively tried to repel the IDF. It is also unquestionable that the IDF used excessive force on the ship and that Israel attempted to whitewash the true events that night by offering a specific narrative.
Photo from IHH