South Africa says it will hold IDF commanders over Marmara deaths

South Africa has issued arrest warrants against four senior Israeli military commanders, including the former chief of staff, over their role in the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid.

South African police say they will arrest any of the four upon entry to the country and have them extradited to Turkey with the help of Interpol.

Gabi Ashkenazi, then IDF chief of staff, in October 2010 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Gabi Ashkenazi, then IDF chief of staff, in October 2010 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The four listed on the warrants are former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy commander Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence head Avishay Levy.

Ten Turks were killed in clashes with Israeli troops after a raid on the Mavi Marmara ship, which was attempting to break the Gaza naval blockade, on May 31, 2010. A number of Israeli troops were injured in the melee.

According to South African news site The Citizen, the decision to arrest the four was made following a complaint by Gadija Davids, an activist who was aboard the ship.

“This decision has allowed us to hold these commanders, now fugitives from justice responsible to answer for crimes that were committed in the high seas,” her lawyer said, according to the news site. “This important decision will reverberate across Turkey and amongst many other jurisdictions like the UK, Spain, Greece, and Sweden, where citizens of such countries were also victims of this vicious and cowardly attack by the Israeli Defense Force.”

The incident contributed to a deterioration in ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, and Turkey has demanded arrests be made and compensation paid over the deaths.

Footage taken from the 'Mavi Marmara' security cameras, showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May 2010. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson / FLASH90)
Footage taken from the ‘Mavi Marmara’ security cameras, showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May 2010. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson / FLASH90)

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor recently said it would not pursue a case against Israel over the deaths

With the announcement, Pretoria appears to be the first major country other than Turkey to say it will arrest Israelis in connection with the incident.

South Africa’s government was recently criticized for allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to leave the country freely, despite an international arrest warrant to try him for war crimes in The Hague.

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