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UN experts say Israel's attack on aid convoy unlawful

RIA Novosti

04:08 23/09/2010

MOSCOW, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - A UN expert group condemned as "brutal" and "disproportionate" Israeli attack on an international Gaza-bound aid convoy in neutral waters, Israeli media reported.

"A series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation," a fact-finding mission of human rights experts, appointed by the Human Rights Council, said in their report.

"The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence," Israel's Ynet News portal quoted the 56-page report as saying.

Israel has maintained that its troops acted in self-defense. It also blamed the Freedom Flotilla participants and organizers for the violence, accusing them of links to international terrorism.

"There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health," the report reads.

The commission also said Israeli officials refused to cooperate during the investigation.

The Israeli foreign ministry retaliated by condemning the report for its "biased, politicized and extremist" approach.

"The Human Rights Council blamed Israel prior to the investigation and it is no surprise that they condemn after," a foreign ministry spokesman, Andy David, said.

Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas that controls Gaza, welcomed the report and urged to "bring the occupation commanders to trial for the crimes they committed."

The Israeli military stormed the Freedom Flotilla ships in neutral waters in the Mediterranean Sea in late May as they tried to take 10,000 tons of aid to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade for the past three years. The raid claimed the lives of at least nine activists, including eight Turkish nationals.

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