into the deaths of at least 10 activists after Israeli security forces boarded ships that were part of an “aid flotilla” to Gaza, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch said that the incident, in which dozens of activists and several Israeli commandos were also reportedly wounded, raises grave concerns about possible unlawful and excessive use of lethal force.
“A prompt, credible, and impartial investigation is absolutely essential to determine whether the lethal force used by Israeli commandos was necessary to protect lives and whether it could have been avoided,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Given Israel’s poor track record of investigating unlawful killings by its armed forces, the international community should closely monitor any inquiry to ensure it meets basic international standards and that any wrongdoers are brought to justice.”
According to reports, at 4 a.m. on May 31, Israeli commandos boarded ships of the aid flotilla. Approximately 700 activists were taking part in the 6-ship flotilla. The flotilla’s organizers said it was carrying humanitarian aid intended for Gaza, including cement, wheelchairs, and parts to repair water infrastructure. The activists said the ships were 70 nautical miles offshore when Israeli forces boarded the ships.
The Israeli government stated that activists on the ships violently resisted Israeli boarding forces, seriously wounding two soldiers. Activists aboard the ships stated that Israeli forces killed unarmed members of the humanitarian aid flotilla. Human Rights Watch has not yet been able to conduct its own investigation to determine which account is accurate. The government had warned the flotilla not to attempt to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.