[QODLink]
Middle East
Israeli army chief back at inquiry
Gabi Ashkenazi testifies for a second time before committee investigating deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2010 12:00 GMT
Ashkenazi has barred other senior Israeli officers from appearing before the Turkel Committee [EPA]

Israel's military chief has testified for a second time before the Turkel Committee investigating the Gaza flotilla raid of May 31, which killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.

Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff, was called on by the Turkel Committee to testify again on Sunday after he refused to allow other senior Israeli officers to appear before the panel.

He said he did not want to expose them to the risks their testimony could create for them.

Al Jazeera's correspondent Sherine Tadros, reporting from Jerusalem, said Ashkenazi "spent most of the morning defending and justifying the actions of his soldiers on board the Mavi [Marmara]", the lead vessel.

The attack on the six-ship flotilla, with 10,000 tonnes of aid, happened in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.

The Gaza Strip, whose residents suffer extreme shortages of basic commodities, has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, when the Palestinian group Hamas gained control of the enclave after a brief power struggle with its rival, Fatah.

Our correspondent quoted the army chief as saying he acted proportionately given the threat.

"They [soldiers] didn't hurt those who didn't need to be hurt," she quoted Ashkenazi as saying.

"He also was talking about the fact that the soldiers - as he sees it and as he commanded - didn't open fire immediately when they landed on deck."

But Tadros said Ashkenazi's testimony contradicted "hundreds of testimonies from journalists and activists" who were on board the Mavi Marmara when the attack happened.

Ashkenazi has previously defended his troops' use of lethal fire and Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, says the raid on the flotillla complied with international law.

He said the second soldier to land opened fire after being shot in the stomach.

"He simply pulled out his gun and shot the shooter," Ashkenazi said.

No guns were found aboard the Mavi Marmara but the Israeli military has previously said that activists seized at least one firearm from the soldiers during the clashes and that it found evidence of a gun not used by Israeli soldiers.

Ashkenazi rejects charges by Turkish authorities that some of the dead had been shot "execution-style" at point-blank range, saying that shots had been fired at close range as part of a life-or-death struggle.

The United Nations set up the inquiry panel in August, appointing Geoffrey Palmer, a former prime minister of New Zealand, and Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's former president, to chair it.

The panel, with which Israel has promised to co-operate, also includes one Israeli and one Turk.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
Chemotherapy is big business, but some US doctors say it could be overused and are pushing for cheaper and better care.
Amid vote audit and horse-trading, politicians of all hues agree a compromise is needed to avoid political instability.
Part of the joint accord aimed at ending the political impasse establishes an independent National Election Commission.
Rights groups say the US prosecution of terrorism cases targets Muslims and are fraught with abuses.
Local painters forgo experimentation to cater to growing number of foreign buyers.
join our mailing list