Major-General Mandelblit
Major-General Mandelblit Israel news photo: IDF

IDF Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit testified Thursday before the Turkel commission. Mandelblit  defended Israel's naval blockade on Hamas in Gaza, and explained why the blockade is legal.

Both the Attorney General and the Supreme Court have agreed that the maritime blockade is legal, he said. The blockade began in 2007 after Hamas, which rejects Israel's existence and supports armed terrorist conflict against the Jewish state, took control of Gaza.

The blockade was imposed for military, and not economic, reasons, Mandelblit told the commission. He also noted that supplies were never imported to Gaza by sea prior to 2007. Goods have always entered and exited the area by land due to the fact that Gaza has no port.

“There was never a free maritime route to Gaza,” he stated.

The naval blockade remains necessary in order to ensure that Hamas does not import weapons for use against Israel, Mandelblit said. The IDF cannot know what is aboard Gaza-bound ships without boarding them, but cannot board ships for legal reasons, making a blockade the only way of keeping weapons out, he explained.

The Turkel Commission is examining the legality of the IDF blockade on Gaza and of the May 31 operation aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that, along with other foreign ships, attempted to break the IDF blockade. IDF commandos boarded the ship and were attacked by armed passengers, members of the Turkish pro-terrorist IHH group, leading to a violent clash in which nine passengers were killed.

Mandelblit defended the Mavi Marmara operation as necessary, but said that the ship had at no point been considered an enemy vessel. “This ship was not a target,” he said. The IDF never considered sinking the ship, Mandelblit said.