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Israel names committee to probe aid flotilla seizure

Israel Materials 14 June 2010 04:50
Israel is to set up an independent commission to investigate the seizure of six ships carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Sunday, dpa reported.
Israel names committee to probe aid flotilla seizure

Israel is to set up an independent commission to investigate the seizure of six ships carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Sunday, dpa reported.

In a meeting Sunday with his Likud Party in Jerusalem, Netanyahu appointed retired Supreme Court judge Yakov Tirkel, 75, to head the commission, which includes two other Israelis and two international observers - Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner William David Trimble and Canadian lawyer Ken Watkin.

The foreign observers will take part in the hearings and deliberations of the commission but will not have the right to vote on the proceedings and conclusions.

The committee could deny the observers access to certain information if it were deemed to cause harm to Israeli national security or its foreign relations.

The team proposed has to pass government approval on Monday. Netanyahu's office said the details of the commission have been coordinated with the United States.

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "We expect Israel's commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly.

"We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community."

The raid resulted in fierce international criticism of Israel and calls for an international commission of inquiry.

"Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation," Gibbs said, "and the structure ... of Israel's proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation."

Israeli naval commandos seized the six-ship flotilla on May 31. While five boats were seized without incident, on the sixth, Israeli forces battled knife- and club-wielding activists on board the Turkish Marvi Marama. Nine activists, eight Turkish and one US citizen of Turkish descent, were shot dead by Israeli forces.

The seizure also placed Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, first imposed when militants from the salient snatched an Israeli soldier during a cross-border raid in June 2006, firmly in the spotlight, and increased calls for it to be lifted or sufficiently modified.

Netanyahu told ministers Sunday that Israel's policy was "to prevent the entry of war material from entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid and non-contraband goods." He asked Transport Minister Yisrael Katz to examine whether it was possible to allow goods to enter the Strip via Egypt, rather than through Israeli crossing points.

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