The Turks were killed on board the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel at the head of a flotilla - sponsored by a group called IHH - attempting to sail to Gaza. The ship was boarded after repeated attempts to have the ship sail to the Israeli port of Ashdod so that their "humanitarian aid" could be sent to Gaza via the proper channels.
A press conference is to be held at 1:00pm in Rome where the official announcement of the reconciliation agreement will occur.
Video footage that surfaced from the event shows the soldiers being brutally attacked once on board the vessel, with some even being kidnapped for a short period of time.
A high ranking political official said that "the issue of the $21 million dollars was settled three years ago. The money will be transferred only after a law which terminates all ongoing legal proceedings in Turkish courts against Israeli officers involved in the Marmara incident is passed in Turkish parliament. Why did the agreement take so long? Because of the Gaza blockade and terror coming from Turkey."
Following the Mavi Marmara incident, an investigative committee headed by Former Supreme Court Justice Ya'akov Turkel was established to investigate. The committee's report, which came out in 2011, said that IHH activists cut the railings of the ship with circular saws to create steel rods with which to attack the soldiers, despite attempts from vessel's crew to stop them.
Regarding the decision to attack the soldiers, the Turkish document reported that "members of IHH acted violently against IDF soldiers on the Mavi Marmara, and had armed themselves with different types of weapons which could have caused death or serious injury. The activists also used firearms against IDF forces during the event."
The captain of the ship reported that he was shocked by the "considerable number of weapons" which were on the ship.
Meanwhile, the head of the naval commando unit which took over the ship said in his testimony before the committee that the violent reaction to the takeover of the ship seemed planned. "No ordinary civilian knows how to fight in the dark while wearing a gas mask for an extended period of time, knows how to steal a weapon (from a soldier), and knows how to cock it and shoot it without flinching. That is, unless they were trained to do it beforehand."
One of the naval commandos who was on the ship and was forcibly taken into the cargo hold by the "peace activists" testified that "(the activists) were all well built, and it seemed as if they're goal was to attack us."
He continued, explaining that it seemed that the activists were comprised of several different groups. "It seemed to me that there was one group which was equipped with weapons with which to attack us, and while they were taking me below deck, there was another group with cameras taking pictures of me. I also heard women screaming in English 'hit him!' amongst other things."
One of the commanders said that he has no doubt that "the terrorists on board the ship planned, organized, and expected the incident, and planned to kill soldiers." He explained that "they were prepared like a military unit - they had gas masks and bullet proof vests, and had both firearms and melee weapons. They had a well organized military structure which was divided into units, and the units spoke amongst each other using walkie-talkies."
A high ranking Israeli official claimed that one of the main parts of the reconciliation agreement is that the IDF soldiers and commanders who took part in the operation to capture the ship will not be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Also in the agreement is a clause which commits Turkey to preventing Hamas attacks on Israel and Israeli citizens from or on Turkish soil.
Earlier negotiations between Israel and Turkey included the issue of returning two captive Israeli citizens from Hamas—one of them Avra Mangisto, and a Bedouin resident from the south of Israel—in addition to the return of the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. The final agreement, does not mention this, and Hamas is not included as a party in the agreement. According to an Israeli official, Israel requested and received a letter from Erdoğan instructing Turkish agencies to work toward settling the matter of Israeli captives and its missing soldiers.
In response to their being attacked, IDF soldiers opened fire on the passengers aboard the Marmara, killing nine Turkish citizens, one of whom was also a US citizen. By this point, Turkish-Israeli relations were already tense over Operation Cast Lead in 2008, but the altercation on board the Marmara seemed to cross a line, as Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv following the incident. It has since then been demanding that Israel apologize for the event and appease the victims’ families, with Israel refusing and claiming that the actions of some of the protestors were blatant acts of terrorism.
During the negotiations process between the two countries, Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reportedly been concerned that current Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman would foil the agreement. Among other statements, Lieberman was quoted as saying that developing closer ties with Erdoğan was ridiculous, that Erdoğan is akin to Goebbels’ successor and that Turkey itself harbors top Hamas terrorists, including those responsible for the 2014 kidnapping and murdering of the three Israeli boys from Gush Etzion in. During their own negotiations to have Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beytenu join the Coalition, Netanyahu made it clear to him that he sees reaching a conciliatory agreement with Turkey a very important goal, and that he expected Lieberman not to stand in its way.