Autopsies on bodies of activists killed in Israel’s attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla five days ago indicate that the victims were shot multiple times at close range.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper quoted Yalcin Buyuk, the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, as saying that the nine men were shot a total of 30 times.
Two men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, Buyuk told the newspaper, based on preliminary autopsy reports.
Ibrahim Bilgen, a 60-year-old activist, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back, the autopsy revealed.
Nineteen-year-old Furkan Dogan, a US citizen of Turkish descent, was shot five times from less that 45cm in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.
Nine people were killed in Monday’s pre-dawn raid on the Freedom Flotilla, a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid, that was heading to Gaza in a bid to break Israel’s blockade of the territory.
Israeli military said the marines, who boarded the ship in international waters, fired in self-defence after activists attacked them.
Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, when asked why a 60-year-old and 19-year-old, amongst others, were shot multiple times at close range, told Al Jazeera: “We learnt the hard way that terrorists can be of a variety of ages or backgrounds.”
“They had one goal, they chose to confront us with knives and metal rods,” she said.
‘Shot from helicopter’
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, who was travelling in the flotilla and witnessed the Israeli raid, confirmed that some passengers took apart some of the ship’s railings to defend themselves as they saw the Israeli soldiers approaching.
He said that he witnessed some of the killings, and confirmed that at least “one person was shot through the top of the head from [the helicopter] above.”
“After the shooting and the first deaths, people put up white flags and signs in English and Hebrew,” he said.
“An Israeli activist [on the ship] asked the soldiers to take away the injured, but they did not and the injured died on the ship.”
The deaths, which all took place on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, continue to draw widespread condemnation.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, speaking during a televised speech said: “You [Israel] killed 19-year-old Furkan Dogan brutally. Which faith, which holy book can be an excuse for killing him?”
“I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says “thou shalt not kill”. Did you not understand? I’ll say again. I say in English “you shall not kill”. Did you still not understand? So I’ll say to you in your own language. I say in Hebrew ‘Lo Tirtzakh’.”
Talking about Hamas, he said: “[They] are resistance fighters fighting for their land. They are Palestinians.
“They won an election and now they are in Israel’s prisons. I told this to the Americans, that I do not accept Hamas as a terrorist group.”
Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, also warned on Friday that his country could break all relations with Israel unless it apologises for the raid against Mavi Marmara, which carried a Turkish flag.
Tan also said that Turkey wanted a credible independent investigation into the events and for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza.
Three Turkish activists wounded in the raid arrived back home on a medical plane on Friday. Another two volunteers who were seriously wounded remain in an Israeli hospital, with a Turkish plane on stand-by to repatriate them, Recep Akdag, Turkey’s health minister said.
The US said that it would investigate the death of Dogan, the youngest killed in the attack, who had joint Turkish-US citizenship.
“We will look into the circumstances of the death of an American citizen, as we would do anywhere in the world at all times,” Philip Crowley, a state department spokesman, said.