One of the activists who were on board the Mavi Marmara ship when it attempted to violate Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in 2010 told a Turkish court on Thursday that Israeli commandos opened fire from a helicopter as they raided the ship.
The Mavi Marmara, alleged to be carrying "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," was the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's Gaza blockade on May 31, 2010.
The ship refused orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated calls to change course, Israeli commandos boarded the vessel, to be attacked by the “activists” on board. The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of eight Turkish nationals and one American.
The ship was taken to the Ashdod port, where investigators who searched it discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid -- in fact, no aid supplies at all -- whatsoever.
Following the incident, an angry Turkey cut off ties with Israel and placed four top IDF commanders, including former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, on trial.
Israel has dismissed the trial as a political "show trial" and it is being held in absentia of the four.
According to the Reuters news agency, Kenneth O'Keefe, an “Irish-Palestinian activist” who was on board the Marmara, told the court that on Thursday Israeli soldiers had started shooting from the helicopter, killing several people.
"Within 5 to 10 minutes after the Israeli helicopter approached the ship, I ran into Cevdet Kiliclar's dead body on the deck, before any Israeli commando had boarded the vessel," O'Keefe said, referring to one of the Turks who died on board the ship.
"He must have been shot from the air. After seeing Kiliclar's dead body, I went upstairs to the top of the deck and saw several people lying on the ground, wounded or dead," claimed O’Keefe.
A September 2011 UN report into the incident cited an Israeli commission of inquiry as saying that three stun grenades were thrown from the helicopter but no shots were fired as the Israeli soldiers descended onto the vessel.
The 105-page Palmer Report also concluded that Israel's naval blockade of Hamas in Gaza is both reasonable and legal, and that the “activists” on board the Marmara had lain in wait for the commandos.
Under pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized in March to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Marmara incident.
Netanyahu, in addition to the apology, agreed to compensate the families of the nine Turks, while Erdogan promised to cancel the legal proceedings his country launched against IDF officials.
Reports have indicated that Israeli and Turkish officials have made progress in talks on compensation for the Marmara incident, but a deal is yet to be finalized.
One of the flotilla participants from the Mavi Marmara has already indicated he would give all the compensation money he receives to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.