The 'Mavi Marmara' Incident in its 10th Anniversary and the Situation of Palestine

It has been 10 years since the attack by the murderer Israel against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on the night of May 30, 2010, which is known as the "Mavi Marmara" incident in the public. The attack in which 10 civilian aid volunteers lost their lives and more than 50 were injured; It had many legal, political, economic and even military consequences.

The 'Mavi Marmara' Incident in its 10th Anniversary and the Situation of Palestine


Occupying Israel, whose establishment was declared in 1948, expanded the lands it seized during the British mandate regime after the war with Arab countries, forcing more than 1 million Palestinians to leave their lands. After the 1967 War, Israeli occupation expanded into Syria's Golan Heights, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Gaza and the West Bank. Although the occupying state of Israel recognized the existence of a Palestinian State under the leadership of Yasser Arafat in the West Bank and Gaza lands in the Oslo negotiations, the number of illegal Jewish settlements it established in these areas increased day by day. In 2005, the occupying Israel decided to withdraw from the region by evacuating the settlements in Gaza. The emergence of Hamas as the party that received the most votes in the elections held on January 25, 2006 brought the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a different dimension.

On the one hand, the fact that the occupying Israel and some Western states did not recognize Hamas as a political actor, on the other hand, the armed conflicts due to Fatah's refusal to accept Hamas' victory shortened the life of the Hamas government. Ultimately, al-Fatah led by Mahmoud Abbas, conquered the West Bank in Palestine; Two different administrations emerged in which Gaza was controlled by Hamas led by Khaled Meshaal. The terrorist state of Israel declared Gaza under the control of Hamas, which it recognized as a terrorist organization, as an "enemy zone" on September 19, 2007, and announced that it would restrict the entry and exit of goods and goods, and launched a naval blockade in the region on January 6, 2009. Yasser Arafat International Airport in Gaza was already unusable because it was bombed by Israel in 2001; Thus, Israel's 14 years of captivity, by blockading Gaza from land, sea and air, began in this way.

The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict at Sea/SRM dated 1994, which includes the customary international law rules regarding naval warfare, accepts the blockade as a method of warfare, but makes it subject to some conditions. According to the SRM, an international conflict must exist for the blockade to be implemented. There are different interpretations regarding the nature of the conflicts between Israel and Palestine.[1] Even when the current tension is evaluated as an international conflict without entering into these discussions, it is clear that the blockade violates the rules of international law in terms of its implementation.

The blockade imposed on Gaza by the occupying Israel violates the Geneva Conventions, The Hague Regulations and international humanitarian law in three dimensions. Article 50 of the Hague Regulations 1907 and III. According to Article 87 of the Geneva Convention; Collective punishment cannot be imposed on individual incidents, taking into account the actions of individuals. In Article 51, 54(1) of Protocol No. I to the Geneva Convention and Article 14 of Protocol No. II, it is stated that hunger cannot be used as a weapon of war and that the gains to be made by the blockade should not be greater than the harm suffered by the civilian population (principle of proportionality). IV. Geneva Convention articles 17 and 23, and Additional Protocol No. I, articles 70 and 71, draw attention to the need to deliver humanitarian aid and to protect humanitarian workers in cases where civilians are harmed and need assistance.[2]

 Occupying Israel punishes all the people of Gaza for choosing Hamas through the blockade, thus violating the "prohibition of collective punishment". Due to the blockade, 80% of the people living in Gaza have become in need of humanitarian aid. The unemployment rate in the region increased to 52%[3] and the poverty rate to 53%. It is reported that the rate of extreme poverty[4] is 33.8%.[5] The blockade violates the "principle of proportionality" in terms of its humanitarian consequences. Israel also deepened the extent of its violations by attacking the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a humanitarian aid organization.


The Free Gaza Movement[6] made attempts to reach Gaza from the sea in small boats between August and December 2007. It was successful in five of these attempts. In December 2009, Viva Palestina and IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation organized a land convoy called "The Road to Palestine (Viva Palestina)". Despite all the obstacles, the convoy managed to reach Gaza. Later, the more comprehensive “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” formed by the predecessors of The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, The Free Gaza Movement, IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, The International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza, Ship to Gaza Greece and Ship to Gaza Sweden “The work has begun. Gathering in international waters in the Mediterranean, the fleet turned its route to Gaza on May 30, 2010, with approximately 700 volunteers from 37 countries of the world. With the flotilla, it was aimed to attract the attention of the world public opinion to the humanitarian situation in Palestine, to create a permanent humanitarian aid corridor by breaking the unlawful blockade imposed by the occupying state Israel, and to deliver humanitarian aid materials to Gaza.[7]

The attack launched by Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara ship carrying the flotilla participants on the night of 30 May ended with the occupation army soldiers taking control of the ship at 05:17 on the morning of 31 May. The attacks on Gaza Freedom Flotilla ships surrounded by warships and helicopters with sound, fog, gas bombs, plastic and real bullets were announced to the world public through live broadcasts. Mavi Marmara, with nine martyrs and more than 50 wounded, withdrew to Ashdot Port, accompanied by physical and psychological torture by Israeli soldiers. With the death of one of the injured later, the death toll in the attack rose to 10. The passengers, who were taken to Bersheva Prison after their interrogation at the Port of Ashdot, were sent to Turkey on 3 June.

Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was against the practice of international law as it was carried out in international waters against ships carrying humanitarian aid and excessive force was used against unarmed civilian volunteers. Apart from this, the violations of rights committed by the occupying Israeli soldiers during the attacks and detention processes can be examined under six headings.

1. Violations of the right to life: According to the statement of the UN International Case Study Mission, the force used by the Israeli soldiers during their attack on the Mavi Marmara; unnecessary, excessive, disproportionate and inappropriate. According to forensic medicine reports, at least six people were killed by shooting at close range arbitrarily.[8]

2. Torture and other inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment or punishment: Fleet passengers, prolonged and painful handcuffs on ships and during interrogation, deliberate intensification of physical conditions, insults, humiliation of detainees by walking in front of crowds, beating, prepared in a foreign language were exposed to practices such as being forced to sign documents.

3. Violation of the person's right to freedom and security: Arbitrary and illegal arrests were made under inhumane conditions without any information being given.

4. Violation of the right to be treated humanely and to respect for the inherent dignity of the detainees: They have been deprived of rights such as meeting with their families, hiring a lawyer, meeting with consular officials.

5. Violation of the right of property: the Israeli authorities, the large amount of cash collected for aid; dozens of electronic items such as mobile phones, computers, cameras; confiscated passports and personal belongings of passengers; many of which have not been returned.

6. Prevention of freedom of communication: During the attack, the satellite connection was cut off by the Israeli soldiers and it was prevented to receive news from Mavi Marmara. In addition, a journalist was shot dead at close range while taking a photo.


In the immediate aftermath of the attack, complaints were made by the victims against high-level Israeli military and political officials in Turkey and in many parts of the world. Complaints in Turkey were combined in a criminal case in 2012. In the case involving 502 complainants, 78 of whom were foreign, the trial of four defendants began: Lieutenant General Gavriel Ashkenazi, then Chief of Staff of Israel, Commander of the Navy Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, Air Force Intelligence Officer Brigadier General Avishai Levi, Chief of Israeli Intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin.

However, the Mavi Marmara Case was dismissed on December 9, 2016, despite the objections of the victims' lawyers, on the grounds of the agreement made between Turkey and Israel on August 28, 2016. The file is under the review of the Court of Appeal and the decision has not been made yet.

On the other hand, 85 compensation cases are pending in Kayseri, Denizli, Diyarbakir, Ankara, Izmir, Konya, Erzurum, Batman and Istanbul, where the total amount claimed is around 23 million Turkish liras. In case of any compensation liability arising from these lawsuits due to the procedural agreement between Israel and Turkey, the Republic of Turkey will assume the responsibility for payment. For this reason, T.C. The Treasury of the Ministry of Finance was added as a party.

There have been lawsuits filed by Mavi Marmara participants in different parts of the world. In the investigation opened as a result of a criminal complaint by Spanish participants, arrest warrants were issued for seven high-level Israeli executives, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then-Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

In the lawsuit filed in the USA by the family of martyr Furkan Doğan, who is an American citizen, the case was dismissed on the grounds of the Turkey-Israel agreement, but the case has not been finalized yet.

The investigation file after South African journalist Gadija Davids, who was among the participants of the Mavi Marmara ship, requested, through her lawyers, the National Presidency of the South African Police Service and the South African Attorney General's Office in January 2011, to initiate a criminal investigation against the Israeli perpetrators who committed international crimes during the attack. It was prepared and the names of the Israeli defendants were reported to the borders and their arrest was demanded if they entered South Africa.

In 2013, an application was made to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on behalf of the Comoros State. Cambodia and Greece were later included in this application. In the decision of the prosecutor's office dated 6 November 2014, it was stated that Israel was an occupier in Gaza, and that a "war crime" was committed within the scope of the Rome Convention with crimes such as "deliberate killing, deliberate injury and behavior against human dignity" in the attack on the flotilla. Israel's claims of "self-defense" were not found worthy of discussion. However, it was decided that the number of victims and deaths in the incident was not high enough to fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC (gravity principle) that it did not have the authority to investigate. The process of initiating an investigation into Mavi Marmara at the ICC is still ongoing due to procedural discussions between the prosecutor's office and the higher court.[9]


The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is the largest and most comprehensive action against the occupation of Palestinian lands, which Israel has constantly expanded by violating all legal rules. The fact that the passengers, all of whom were civilian participants, sought justice in national and international courts regarding the grievances they experienced in the face of Israel's attack, strengthened the legitimacy ground of the fleet. The courageous stance of the participants during the attack and the decisions taken at the ICC and some national courts destroyed the perception of Israel's "invincibility". On the other hand, the propaganda that Israel is the most democratic country in the Middle East has taken a big hit after the attack on the Mavi Marmara was shown to the whole world. The Gaza Freedom Flotilla has managed to draw attention to Palestine by showing the dark side of Israel to the world public opinion and has largely fulfilled its mission. It has also been an important factor in the increase of domestic production in the Turkish defense industry. The rupture of relations with Israel after the Mavi Marmara incident prompted Turkey to accelerate the already existing domestic production process in this area. Switching to domestic production in the defense industry, especially UAVs and Atack Drones, has been one of the important results of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.[10]

According to the report prepared by the UN International Case Study Committee and the testimonies, the victimization of the participants in the Mavi Marmara incident has been registered. However, the situation was tried to be changed in favor of Israel with the reports of Palmer and the Turkel Commission prepared by Israel, which were prepared under pressure from the Israeli administration. After the agreement signed between Turkey and Israel in 2016, Israel did not receive any punishment for dismissing the cases in Turkey and in different parts of the world based on this agreement.

In the Mavi Marmara case, the scales of justice have not found the balance until today. Where justice dwindled, criminals grew and the then Israeli Chief of Staff, Gavriel Ashkenazi, who was primarily responsible for the attack, was appointed foreign minister in the newly formed Israeli government. Benny Gantz, who will replace Netanyahu as prime minister a year and a half later, has been appointed as defense minister. Gantz also served as chief of staff during Operation Protective Line, in which 2,147 people were killed and more than 10,000 injured in 2014.

Although Israel advances the normalization process with Arab countries, and implements projects such as the Deal of the Century and the annexation of the West Bank with the support of the United States, there will always be people who will defend the just cause of the Palestinians. This is a duty, at least for those who can still hear the voice of their conscience and maintain their faith in justice.

[1] Ahmet Hamdi Topal, “Israel's Gaza Blockade and the Mavi Marmara Attack”, Public and Private International Law Bulletin, 32/1, 103-154, p. 109-126.

[2] Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their Additional Protocols, International Committee of the Red Cross and Galatasaray University Faculty of Law Publications, Istanbul, 2005; Topal, ibid., p. 37-40.

[3] كتاب فلسطين الإحصائي السنوي, الجهاز المركزي للإحصاء الفلسطيني, 2009, p. 77.

[4] People with a daily income of less than $1.90.

[5] “Palestine in Figures 2019”, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, March 2020, p. 29.

[6] For detailed information, see.

[7] Mavi Marmara: Gaza Freedom Flotilla, IHH Kitap, 2011, p. 39,

[8] The International Fact-Finding Mission report examining the violations of international law in Israel's attack on the flotilla of humanitarian aid ships, A/HRC/15/21, September 2010, p. 38-40, 50-51,

[9] From the interview dated 21.02.2020 with Burak Turan, one of the lawyers of Mavi Marmara.

[10] For the explanation of Baykar Technical Manager Selçuk Bayraktar, see.

Source : Kadriye Sınmaz