ISRAEL SETS UP INQUIRY INTO DEADLY GAZA FLOTILLA RAID

By NBF News
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Israel has announced an internal inquiry into its deadly raid last month on a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships.

Israel earlier rejected a UN proposal for an international probe, but has now agreed to include two foreign observers in its own inquiry.

The “independent public commission” proposal would be voted on by the cabinet, said a government statement.

Nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the ships in international waters on 31 May.

Reacting to the Israeli announcement, Washington described it as “an important step forward”.

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 six ships, carrying campaigners and 10,000 tonnes of aid, had sailed from Cyprus in a bid to break Israel's three-year blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said Israel's blockade of Gaza is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

In a statement, the ICRC describes the situation in Gaza as dire, saying the only sustainable solution was a lifting of the blockade.

Two observers
The Israeli commission would “investigate aspects related to the actions taken by the state of Israel to prevent vessels reaching the coast of Gaza”, said the statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

The three-man panel would be led by former Israeli Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel, it added.

“In light of the exceptional circumstances of the incident, it was decided to appoint two foreign experts who will serve as observers,” the statement continued.

They will be Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble and retired Canadian military prosecutor Ken Watkin.

The two foreign observers will take part in the hearings and subsequent discussions, but they will not vote on the conclusions of the inquiry.

David Trimble, the former Ulster Unionist leader, won the Nobel prize for his role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the worst of the political violence in Northern Ireland.

Since stepping aide from politics there, he has been to the Middle East to speak about conflict resolution.

Vote due
The announcement comes after days of discussions among senior Israeli ministers, the BBC's Tim Franks in Jerusalem says.

The Israeli cabinet is expected to vote on the proposal on Monday.

Israel says its troops acted in self-defence when activists attacked commandoes trying to board one of the flotilla's six aid ships.

The campaigners say the soldiers opened fire without any provocation.

Turkey's foreign minister has called Israel's raid “murder by a state”, while US President Barack Obama described the situation as “tragic”.