Witness Tells Turkish Court IDF Fired From Helicopter

INSTANBUL (Reuters) -

An anti-war activist told a Turkish court on Thursday that Israeli commandos opened fire from a helicopter during a raid on a Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship three years ago, contradicting an Israeli investigatory report which found that the soldiers acted in self defense.

The trial in absentia of four retired Israeli commanders, including the ex-head of the army, opened in Istanbul last November and resumed on Thursday with testimony from those who were aboard and relatives of the dead.

Although Israel has not yet commented on Thursday’s testimony, it has previously dismissed the proceedings as a political “show trial.”

Kenneth O’Keefe, an Irish-Palestinian former U.S. marine turned anti-war activist who was on board the ship, told the court that Israeli soldiers had started shooting from the helicopter, killing several people.

A September 2011 U.N. report into the incident cited an Israeli commission of inquiry as saying that three stun grenades were thrown from the helicopter but no shots were fired as the Israeli soldiers descended onto the vessel.

“The soldiers from the first helicopter were met with an extreme level of violence from a group of passengers on the vessel. They were shot at and attacked with clubs, iron rods, slingshots and knives,” the report said, summarizing Israel’s own investigation.

It said the Israeli soldiers resorted to lethal weapons “in response to the violent resistance faced.”