Israel’s army chief says Israeli forces fired more than 300 live bullets during the takeover of the Turkish-flagged aid ship, Mavi Marmara, back in May.
In his second round of testimony before an Israeli inquiry panel on Sunday, the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, said Israeli navy commandos fired 308 live bullets aboard the Gaza-bound aid vessel during the deadly takeover of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, Reuters reported.
The six-ship civilian aid convoy was in international waters, heading for the blockaded Gaza Strip when it was stormed by Israeli forces who killed nine Turkish nationals onboard.
Testifying before the six-member investigation commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Yaacov Tirkel, Ashkenazi said the killing of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara had been unavoidable.
Israeli marine commandos were equipped with anti-riot gear, but quickly switched to live fire to confront the pro-Palestinian activists because "if they had not done this, there would have been more casualties," Ashkenazi insisted.
Turkish forensic findings had earlier revealed that the nine dead activists were shot a total of 30 times, and gunshot wounds were found among 24 other passengers, who had sustained injuries in the incident.
Ashkenazi said passengers grabbed three Glock handguns and an Uzi machine pistol from Israeli forces and opened fire on the invading commandos.
But Mavi Marmara activists — who maintain the commandos’ use of deadly force was unprovoked — have said any guns taken from the troops were disposed of, rather than used.
In a report in September, the UN Human Rights Council stated that several passengers may have been executed.
The report referred to one of the nine victims, who suffered a fatal brain injury from a "beanbag" round — a heavy pad fired from a shotgun, which is meant to knock down, but not kill the person targeted.
Ankara suspended its relations with Tel Aviv following the May 31 onslaught, a strain intensified by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for what he called an "act of self-defense" by Israeli commandos.
Turkey demands compensation and a formal apology from Israel. It has also dismissed the Tirkel panel as being too limited in scope.