Netanyahu: Israel warned Turkey about flotilla

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has told a public investigation into the clash on a Gaza-bound ship that the Turkish government ignored warnings “intended to prevent a confrontation with the Marmara flotilla”.

The Israeli Prime Minister said that from May 14 his office communicated with the Turkish government "at the highest level" on the issue, but repeated warnings that the ships would not be allowed to sail to Gaza were not heeded.

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists died during the fighting with the Israeli navy on May 31.

Mr Netanyahu, the first to testify at the Israeli hearing into flotilla raid, said the contacts continued “until the eve of the flotilla's arrival off Gaza's shores.

the Turkish government did not prevent the attempt by the Marmara to violate the naval blockade

- Benjamin Netanyahu

He added: "Despite our continuous diplomatic efforts, ultimately the Turkish government did not prevent the attempt by the Marmara to violate the naval blockade.

“It appears that [Turkey] did not see in the prospect of a clash between Turkish activists and Israel something that clashed with its interests.”

Mr Netanyahu told the panel, headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel, and overseen by former Irish First Minister Lord Trimble, that Israel had operated according to international law.

He said Israel had been forced to intervene over the flotilla to prevent weapons reaching Hamas, the militant group which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

"As prime minister I can't ignore Hamas as a threat to Israel's existence."

Mr Netanyahu has also agreed to take part in the United Nations inquiry , which begins work on August 10.

Last updated: 12:57pm, August 9 2010