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15 May, 2013 01:42

ICC opens initial probe into Israel’s deadly 2010 Gaza flotilla raid

ICC opens initial probe into Israel’s deadly 2010 Gaza flotilla raid

The prosecutor of the ICC will open a preliminary investigation into Israel's 2010 raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists and strained relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv.

The referral has come from the Indian Ocean island of Comoros, where one of the flotilla’s vessels was registered. Comoros is a member of the ICC (the International Criminal Court) and according to the court's rules it is obligated to address an issue when a member state complains.

"My office will be conducting a preliminary examination in order to establish whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met," prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement after meeting with lawyers from a Turkish law firm Elmadag that is representing Comoros.

The Mavi Marmara ship registered in Comoros was stormed by Israeli forces on May 31, 2010 when it was attempting to break an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip. Soldiers killed nine activists, eight of them Turkish nationals, sparking international outcry and condemnation from the UN for use of “excessive force.”

The UN has called for the six-year blockade on Gaza to be lifted on numerous occasions on the grounds that it represents “a denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law.”

Lawyers from the Istanbul-based law firm claimed, during the filing, that the events on the ship should be considered as having occurred on the territory of Comoros.

So far the court has declined to investigate events in the Palestinian territories, due to lack of jurisdiction. The ICC has jurisdiction over its members, over cases that are referred to it by the UN Security Council and over events that take place on the territory of member states.

"After careful analysis of all available information, I shall make a determination that will be made public in due course," Bensouda said.

Relations between Israel and Turkey were strained by the incident. However in April Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone conversation apologized to Turkey for "any error that may have led to loss of life.” Israel offered compensation to the families of the victims of the flotilla raid.

Earlier this month, a second round of reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey took place in Jerusalem. Following the talks Israel announced that an agreement had been drafted “but a number of clarifications are needed on a few issues."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that full diplomatic ties can only be resumed after compensation is paid and Israel must end all commercial restrictions on the Palestinians.