Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Defense Minister Ehud Barak Photo by Ariel Hermoni
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An Israeli report concerning the country's blockade of the Gaza Strip and a May 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound ship proves Israel is a law-abiding nation, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday.

The first part of a report by the Turkel Commission released earlier Sunday determined that Israeli soldiers who took part in the Gaza flotilla raid which resulted in the deaths of nine people on board the Mavi Marmara ship had acted in self-defense, adding that Israel's three-and-a-half year blockade of the Gaza Strip does not break international law.

In his response to the commission's findings, Barak said he "congratulated" the panel's report, saying that it "proved that Israel was a law-abiding country that could inspect itself and which respects the norms and rules of the international system."

"The Gaza flotilla was a provocation which had nothing to do with humanitarian aid," Barak said, adding that the State of Israel would continue to "vigorously defend its sovereignty and borders. It is its right to defend itself and its citizens anywhere, any time, and in any manner."

Speaking of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, Barak said the enclosure was "motivated by security concerns only, and its enforcement, including in international waters, is just and legal," the defense minister went on to say, adding that the Gaza Strip was not undergoing "a humanitarian crisis," and that the insertion of goods into the coastal enclave was continuous.

Balad MK Hanin Zuabi, however, condemned the findings of Israel's probe into the events of the Gaza flotilla last May.

Zuabi, who was harshly criticized for personally taking part in the Turkish-led flotilla, said the Turkel Commission completely ignored the killing of nine Turkish citizens by Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

"The commission based its 'findings' on the testimony of the diplomatic and military officials who made the decision to attack and kill," the Israeli Arab MK wrote, saying that the Turkel panel "completely ignored the killing of the nine political activists on board."

Zuabi went on to say that the report could not "erase Israel's reputation as a country that repeatedly breaks international law," adding that in spite of the Turkel report, there still remains an international report which "determined that Israel did not kill the Turkish activists as a last resort."

"The Turkel Committee was an open stage for vulgar propaganda which granted government and military officials uninterrupted airtime during almost all the discussions on the matter," Zuabi claimed.