Israeli Arab MK Zuabi says IDF boarded Gaza flotilla ships with intent to kill 31Aug10 September 1, 2010

Haaretz -  31 August 2010

Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zuabi testified before a United Nations panel probing Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May, telling the panel that commandos who boarded the ships intended to kill, Army Radio reported on Tuesday.

A UN inquiry team began hearings on Monday with Jordanian activists about the May 31 Israeli raid on a Turkish ship trying to break an Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the raid.

So far, Israeli Knesset member Zuabi and six others have been interviewed.

“It was evident from the beginning that the commandoes viewed all of us activists as terrorists, Zuabi told The Associated Press after her testimony before a three-member UN team headed by Karl Hudson-Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Israel’s use of large numbers of elite troops with sophisticated weaponry showed it intended to kill the passengers, added the lawmaker, who was aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, where the killing took place.

“We were very peaceful activists, but the commandoes came to kill,” she said.

Israel has refused to cooperate with this probe, accusing the UN Human Rights Council of bias. But it is working with a separate UN group led by New Zealand’s ex-Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and Colombia’s ex-President Alvaro Uribe that is examining the legal ramifications of the incident.

Israel’s military has already wrapped up its own investigation, finding that intelligence failed to predict the violent response but troops acted properly under the circumstances.

The panel is due to report back to the UN Human Rights Council during its next session, between September 13 and October 11.

The Knesset in mid-July voted to revoke three parliamentary privileges from Zuabi (Balad) due to her participation in the aid flotilla that sailed to Gaza.

Thirty-four lawmakers voted in favor of stripping Zuabi’s privileges and 16 voted against, after a heated debate, in which Zuabi accused her fellow lawmakers of punishing her out of vengeance.

Zuabi responded to the Knesset vote by saying, “It’s not surprising that a country that strips the fundamental rights of its Arab citizens would revoke the privileges of a Knesset member who loyally represents her electorate.”

The UN fact-finding mission is chaired by Karl Hudson-Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Israel has refused cooperation with the team, claiming it lacks neutrality.

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