ISRAELI forces may have committed war crimes when they stormed a ship carrying aid to Gaza in 2010.
But the possible crimes are not “grave enough” to merit a prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC), prosecutors have ruled.
Legal chief Fatou Bensouda said: “Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli Defence Forces intercepted the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May, 2010.”
However, Ms Bensouda said any cases relating to the storming “would not be of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC”.
Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara.
Ms Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation last year after the tiny African state of Comoros filed a complaint about the boarding of the ship, which was flying under a Comoros flag.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
A Turkish lawyer representing Comoros, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, vowed not to give up the case.
“This is a moral struggle that we’re pursuing by ourselves. It’s a legal struggle, a struggle in the name of humanity. This struggle isn’t over,” attorney Ramazan Ariturk said.
“We will object to a higher court at the International Criminal Court and we believe without a doubt that we will prevail.”
In a 61-page report, prosecutors concluded that “there is a reasonable basis to believe” that Israeli forces may have committed the crimes of wilful killing, wilfully causing serious injury and committing outrages upon personal dignity.
The report said the findings were based on “information available at this stage” and that ICC prosecutors did not collect the evidence.
A UN report in July 2011 found the raid had been justified but that Israel used excessive force.
Israel and Turkey are not members of the court, which has jurisdiction only over its members, over cases that are referred to it by the UN Security Council and over events that take place on the territory of member states.
It was the second time in as many days Israel has been accused of war crimes.
On Wednesday, Amnesty International accused Israel of committing war crimes during the conflict in the Gaza Strip this summer, saying it had displayed “callous indifference” in attacks on family homes in the densely populated coastal area.
The Gaza war killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including many civilians, Palestinian and UN officials have said.
Israel said the number of militants killed was much higher than claimed and it accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.
On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
Amnesty said in a report that “Israeli forces killed scores of Palestinian civilians in attacks targeting houses full of families, which in some cases have amounted to war crimes.”
Israel’s foreign ministry rejected the report’s findings, saying the London-based rights group “ignores documented war crimes perpetrated by Hamas”.
The ministry said: “The report does not mention the word terror in relation to Hamas or other armed Palestinian groups, nor mentions tunnels built by Hamas to infiltrate Israel and perpetrate terror attacks.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS