The International Criminal Court will not prosecute Israel for a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship that left eight Turks and an American dead, even though there’s reason to believe war crimes were committed, a prosecutor with the Netherlands-based court said Thursday.
While conceding that war crimes may have been committed in the botched raid, the potential cases “would not be of ‘sufficient gravity’ to justify further action by the ICC,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.
“In the final analysis, I have, therefore, concluded that the legal requirements under the Rome Statute to open an investigation have not been met and I am announcing that the preliminary examination has been closed,” Bensouda said.
The case centers on an attempt by groups including the Cyprus-based Free Gaza Movement and a pro-Palestinian Turkish charity to deliver goods to the Palestinian territory despite an Israeli blockade in May 2010.
Activists organized a flotilla and departed Cyprus for Gaza, hoping to raise awareness of what it called Israel’s “illegal siege on” the territory. But Israeli commandos raided one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, because it violated the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Palestinian territory.
Eight Turks and an American citizen of Turkish descent were killed in the raid. Israel said at the time that its troops fired only after they were attacked with knives and other objects after boarding the ship.
The Mavi Marmara raid damaged relations between Turkey and Israel, two close allies of the United States that had previously enjoyed military, economic and intelligence-sharing ties.
Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama helped broker a telephone apology for the raid from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his Turkish counterpart.
Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the militant group Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory. It was designed to stop the smuggling of arms into the territory, the Israeli government said.
But activists say Israel’s embargo of goods into Gaza from land and sea punishes civilians in the tiny and densely populated strip of land along the Mediterranean coast.
Bensouda started examining the case last year at the urging of the Comoros, an island nation off Africa’s eastern coast. Though the flotilla departed from Cyprus, the Mavi Marmara was registered in the Comoros.