Israel's Wars & Operations: Gaza Flotilla Incident
(May 31, 2010)
On the morning of May 31, 2010, IDF naval forces intercepted six ships from the IHH organization attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
After the ships ignored numerous warnings to redirect toward Ashdod, where their material could be checked and then transferred to Gaza, teams of elite naval commandos boarded the vessels. On the lead boat, the Mavi Marmara, demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF personnel with live fire, light weaponry, knives and clubs. Two weapons were also taken from the soldiers and used against them.
As a result of the violence, seven soldiers were wounded and ten Turkish activists were killed.
Lawyers at the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided not to open up an investigation into the case on November 6, 2014. The lawyers admitted that they believe that war crimes had been committed by IDF soldiers during the incident, but the crimes were not of significant gravity to merit an investigation by the ICC.
Seven months later, in July 2015, members of the ICC voted 2-1 and ordered the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to once again consider opening a full investigation into the incident. Members of the ICC harshly informed Bensouda that she should seriously consider the possibility that the deaths of those killed by the IDF were “systematic” and “deliberate.” In December 2019, the ICC again considered the case with the prosecutor concluding, “There remains no reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, since there is no reasonable basis to conclude that any potential case arising from the situation would be of sufficient gravity to be admissible before the Court.”
Three U.S. citizens and a Belgian national filed a suit in U.S. Federal Court on January 11, 2016, seeking compensation for damages sustained during the flotilla incident. The plaintiffs in the case suffered injuries from stun grenades and rubber bullets used by IDF forces during the raid.
In March 2018, posts from a secret British Facebook group corroborated Israel’s version of events. Greta Berlin, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Free Gaza Movement, said that the Israeli troops did not open fire until after Ken O’Keefe, a former U.S. marine aboard the Mavi Marmara, had seized a gun from one of them. “He was responsible for some of the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara. Had he not disarmed an Israeli terrorist soldier, they would not have started to fire,” she wrote. This contradicts the activists’ contention that Israeli forces began firing as soon as they hit the ship’s deck (Times of Israel, March 13, 2018).
Relations between Israel and Turkey broke down over the incident and were not restored until 2016 when Israel apologized and agreed to compensate the families of the victims. In June 2017, Israel reportedly paid total compensation of $20 million, which was to be divided among the ten families (Reuters, June 23, 2017).