A U.S. citizen of Turkish origin was among the nine people killed in a botched Israeli effort to stop a Turkish aid ship from reaching the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a Turkish official said Thursday. The American citizen was identified by the Anatolia news agency as Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old student. His body had four bullet wounds to the head and one to the chest.
“It’s a Turkish-origin American citizen. We know that,” the official said by phone from Turkey, adding that more details were not yet available.
The nine bodies were flown home from Israel to Turkey on Wednesday, along with hundreds of activists, aboard a Turkish plane. Israel was not able to identify the bodies because the dead had no identification on them, Israeli officials said.
The killing of nine Turks has created enormous tensions in the relationship between Israel and Turkey.
Israel has come under widespread criticism following the operation, aimed at maintaining a blockade of Gaza. Israel accused the Turkish contingent of being part of a radical Islamic movement and showed video of passengers attacking naval commandos as they landed on board.
The Obama administration said Wednesday that it had warned Israel’s government repeatedly to use “caution and restraint” with the half-dozen aid boats bound for Gaza before Israeli commandos raided the flotilla this week in the operation that killed nine people.
“We communicated with Israel through multiple channels many times regarding the flotilla,” P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement issued in response to a question from The Washington Post. “We emphasized caution and restraint given the anticipated presence of civilians, including American citizens.”
The acknowledgment shed new light on the administration’s contact with the Israeli government before the Monday morning raid, which has inflamed international opinion against Israel and complicated President Obama’s efforts to improve U.S. relations with the Islamic world. White House officials said Wednesday that there is a growing consensus within the administration that U.S. and Israeli policy toward Gaza must change, even as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flatly rejected calls for his country to lift its blockade of the Palestinian territory.
Netanyahu, addressing his nation Wednesday for the first time since the raid, angrily defended Israel from mounting international criticism over its use of force against the flotilla, which was carrying construction materials, medicine, school paper and other aid to Gaza when Israeli commandos set upon it in international waters.
Netanyahu called the criticism “hypocrisy” and described Gaza, where 1.5 million people live in a narrow slice of dunes and refugee camps between southern Israel and the sea, as “a terror state funded by the Iranians.”
In an interview with Charlie Rose broadcast Wednesday night, Vice President Biden agreed that Israel had a right to inspect the cargo. “You can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not . . . but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know — they’re at war with Hamas — has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in,” he said.
The Washington Post