JERUSALEM: The Israeli panel examining a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla has urged anyone who was on board the flagship Mavi Marmara at the time of the operation to come forward and testify.
The appeal was issued by the Tirkel Commission late on Sunday, just hours before two Arab Israeli passengers were to give sworn testimony about their experience on board the ferry when it was raided on May 31.
"The Tirkel Commission would like to receive testimony from any passenger who was on the Mavi Marmara on the night of May 31 and who has relevant information that could shed light on" the investigation, the statement said.
Anyone interested in testifying was asked to contact panel spokesman Ofer Lefler via the website http://www.turkel-committee.gov.il/index-eng.html.
The commission, which the Israeli government set up in June, has a mandate to look into the legality of the raid in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead.
Until now, the four-member panel has not heard any first-hand testimony from people directly involved in the clashes on board the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in a six-vessel convoy which was trying to run Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The two men who were to testify on Monday, Mohammed Zedan and Sheikh Hamad Abu Daabis, were both on the deck of the Marmara when it was seized during the pre-dawn raid in international waters.
The panel has heard testimony from top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and army Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, but it has not been allowed to question any of the troops involved in the operation.
Israel says its soldiers fired in self-defence after they were attacked with clubs and knives, but activists say the Israelis opened fire as soon as they rappelled from helicopters on to the Mavi Marmara’s upper deck.