Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that Israeli commandos were guilty in the fatal 2010 raid on a flotilla attempting to enter Gaza, dismissing video evidence and investigations that show the soldiers were attacked before opening fire.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 to be broadcast Monday, Erdogan, who recently restored ties with Israel after years at odds, said “it is impossible to believe” that the Israeli soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara tried to avert bloodshed.
The Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship leading a protest flotilla to the Gaza Strip in 2010, where Israel maintains a security blockade to prevent ruling terror group Hamas from importing weapons. Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship, were attacked by activists who were waiting for them, and responded with gunfire, killing ten. Ten Israelis were wounded. The incident soured relations between Jerusalem and Ankara for years.
“We have all of the documents and evidence,” Erdogan said, and “it’s impossible” that the soldiers were acting in self-defense.
“Regrettably, 10 of our brothers were martyred there,” he added.
Erdogan dismissed footage of the incident that showed the Turkish activists assaulting the soldiers with metal rods and clubs, as well as a severely injured commando held in the belly of the ship.
“We have all [of the evidence],” he told journalist Ilana Dayan of Channel 2’s Uvda program in an interview. “Speak correctly. The fact that you’re a journalist shouldn’t prevent you from speaking correctly.”
Last week, Israel and Turkey exchanged ambassadors in the final stage of an agreement signed in the summer to end the breakdown in relations sparked by the Mavi Marmara incident.
Under the terms of the reconciliation agreement, Israel paid a “lump sum” of $20 million in compensation to the victims.
Individual Israeli nationals, including army officers, also would not be held criminally or financially liable for the incident, the deal stipulated.
The thaw paved the way for Israel and Turkey to ramp up cooperation on natural gas development in the Mediterranean.
The two sides are holding talks for building an ambitious project for a pipeline to pump Israeli gas to Turkey and Europe.
Erdogan’s interview was the first with an Israeli reporter for 13 years, Channel 2 said.