Israel to conduct own probe of Gaza ship raid


  • World
  • Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Monday it would investigate a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla on its own, after rejecting a U.N. proposal for an international probe.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israel's Parliament in response to a no-confidence motion over the May 31 raid which lawmakers later rejected, that "we intend to carry out an investigation of the events."

Barak gave no details of the format of such a probe, which Israeli media reports said was still being worked out, partly in coordination with Washington to ensure it would satisfy Western demands for a look at how nine were killed in the raid.

State-owned Channel One television said members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior cabinet forum wished to avoid naming a full-fledged inquiry commission as Israel has done after past crises.

Barak suggested Israel was also looking at ways to amend its four-year blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, though it was intent to maintain restrictions it sees as essential to preventing Iranian missiles from reaching the Palestinian territory.

He said the probe Israel was planning would be in addition to a separate military investigation, and would seek to establish whether Israel's blockade of Gaza and its raid "met with the standards of international law".

"We will draw lessons at the political level, (and) in the security establishment," Barak said.

'MOUNTAINS OF QUESTIONS'

"Since the event, we have heard and read mountains of talk and questions and without a doubt in the coming months we shall discuss lessons ... perhaps additional ways to achieve the same goals of the blockade, by reducing as far as possible the potential for friction," he added.

Barak rejected Western criticism that the Gaza blockade was creating any hardship in the coastal zone packed with 1.5 million people. "There is no humanitarian crisis or hunger in Gaza," he said.

In moving no confidence, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Kadima party, said Netanyahu's government wasn't acting swiftly enough to probe the raid, and was following a "dangerous course" that increasingly isolated Israel diplomatically.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators could play a role in any inquiry and that the U.N. was not the only option.

"It's very important that an inquiry is established with an international presence," Hague told a news conference in Rome.

Hague's Italian counterpart, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, said Italy had proposed having observers appointed by the quartet -- which comprises the United States, the European Union, United Nations and Russia -- involved in the probe.

In further Israeli fallout over the flotilla, a parliamentary panel voted to remove diplomatic privileges from an Israeli Arab lawmaker who rode one of the ships, a motion that still requires a full plenum vote before taking effect.

(Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Charles Dick)


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