ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The nine men killed during an Israeli navy raid on a Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza were shot a total of 30 times, the head of the state forensics laboratory said Saturday.
Most of the victims, who were all Turkish, were shot at close range with what may have been pistols, Haluk Ince, chairman of the Forensic Medicine Council, told Reuters.
“The deaths of all nine were caused by bullets from firearms,” he said. “One body had two bullets in the arm, one in the back and one in the knee. In another patient, there was only one bullet: right in center his brow.”
Two of the men were shot five times, while one was hit six times, according to the autopsies performed by the forensics lab. Five people were shot in the head, Ince said. He declined to name which victims were shot how many times.
Witnesses have described scenes of chaos when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of a six-vessel convoy carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists who planned to break a three-year blockade on Gaza.
Abid Mahi, 30, a British volunteer on the Mavi Marmara, told Reuters he heard something whizz past his right ear from behind and, an instant later, saw a man in front of him collapse and, Mahi believes, die.
“It wasn’t a raid, it was an attack,” he said.
Israel has said its soldiers were acting in self-defense once they intercepted the ship and passengers on the Mavi Marmara attacked them, posing a threat to their lives. Soldiers carried paintball guns and only used their back-up pistols as a last resort, the government has said.
Besides those killed, 24 people are being treated in a hospital in the capital Ankara. Seven are in critical condition, according to physicians.
None of the wounds Ince and his team examined were caused by ricocheting bullets but were all direct hits.
All but one of the bullets recovered by examiners were of 9 mm caliber, Ince said. “The bullets we obtained from the bodies are generally used in short-barrelled guns,” Ince said.
Examiners were unable to identify one bullet in available information on firearms.
“Normally all weapons are in the record, but we researched this and couldn’t find it in our literature,” Ince said.
“When we opened the skull and reached the brain, we saw this (object) for the first time,” he said. “I have been in forensics for 20 years and have never seen something like this.”
This bullet caused a wound that looked like those caused by projectiles from hunting rifles, Ince said.
“He had a circular entrance wound on his right temple with a diameter of about 2-2.5 cm,” Ince said.
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, said in an editorial in the New York Times that spent cartridges of a caliber not used by Israeli special forces were found on the Mavi Marmara. The activists said they had no guns on board.
Ince said the lab had been unable to recover all of the bullets -- although some bodies had exit wounds.
“They are probably still on the boat ... If it exits the body, then the bullet is from a powerful gun and this is normal for a 9mm weapon.”
Some wounds were caused by plastic bullets, but those did not cause any of the deaths, he added.
The Forensic Medicine Council in Istanbul received the corpses at 3:30 a.m. Thursday. Israeli authorities had already carried out preliminary examinations of the dead men but had not performed actual autopsies, Ince said.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.