Israeli-Arab MK tells UN probe of Gaza flotilla attack that Israeli commandos out to kill

By Jamal Halaby, AP
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

UN probe of Gaza flotilla talks to Israeli-Arab MK

AMMAN, Jordan — An Israeli-Arab lawmaker said Tuesday she told U.N. investigators probing Israel’s deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip that its commandos were on a mission to kill.

Investigators from a U.N. human rights inquiry on the May 31 flotilla attack, in which nine activists died, began interviewing witnesses in the Jordanian capital on Monday.

So far, Israeli Knesset member Hanin Zoabi and six others have been interviewed.

“It was evident from the beginning that the commandoes viewed all of us activists as terrorists,” Zoabi told The Associated Press after her testimony before a three-member U.N. team headed by Karl Hudson-Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“Israel’s use of large numbers of elite troops with sophisticated weaponry showed it intended to kill the passengers,” added the lawmaker, who was aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, where the killing took place. “We were very peaceful activists, but the commandoes came to kill,” she said.

Israel has refused to cooperate with this probe, accusing the U.N. Human Rights Council of bias. But it is working with a separate U.N. group led by New Zealand’s ex-Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and Colombia’s ex-President Alvaro Uribe that is examining the legal ramifications of the incident.

Israeli commandos met unexpected resistance last May when they tried to prevent a Turkish aid ship from breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The commandos opened fire, killing eight Turkish activists and a Turkish American. Both countries said they acted in self-defense.

The flotilla raid drew an international outcry and forced Israel to ease its blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israel, along with Egypt, imposed the blockade in June 2007 after Hamas militants took control of the area.

Israel’s military has already wrapped up its own investigation, finding that intelligence failed to predict the violent response but troops acted properly under the circumstances.

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