Military A-G Tells Turkel: Flotilla Raid Was Lawful

Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit told the Turkel Committee investigating the incident involving the Turkish flotilla to the Gaza Strip yesterday that the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the takeover of the ships trying to breach it were in line with international law.

During his testimony before the investigating panel, Maj. Gen. Mendelblit reviewed the legal aspects of the blockade policy and the military action against the flotilla. Mendelblit explained that the blockade had as its purpose what "classic warfare and economic warfare aim to do, which is to force the other side to do what we want it to do. This means for the Hamas to cease firing rockets at our civilians. It is not our aim to punish the civilian population."

He noted that because it was obvious to Israel that a consequence of the blockade was that the civilian population suffered, the legality of the issue was examined by both the attorney general and the Supreme Court, and "it was concluded to be legal and permissible."

Mendelblit reiterated that the harm to the civilian population was not of the sort that would cause a humanitarian crisis. He also said that what Hamas sought in launching rockets at Israel was for Israel to respond in kind, "but we will not indiscriminately target civilian areas. That is precisely what Hamas wants. Another way of responding is through economic warfare."

Most of his testimony pertaining to the preparations ahead of the takeover of the ships in the flotilla was given behind closed doors. However, Mendelblit was quoted as saying that "no one thought of sinking a ship with 650 people - that would be disproportionate."

He did say that there were expectations of a violent confrontation and that the aim was to stop the flotilla without causing deaths.