Israel to set up own inquiry into Gaza ship raid

Israel announced Sunday it would set up its own investigation into a deadly raid on a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships, and that its panel would include two foreign observers.

The internal inquiry into the March 31 raid, which falls short of a U.N. proposal for an international investigation, was decided on after consultations with the United States.

The White House welcomed the move as an important step.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the government would give its final approval Monday to forming an "independent public commission" into the incident.

Israel said its commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists when they boarded a Turkish-flagged aid vessel after they were attacked by passengers wielding metal rods and knives.

Amid an international outcry over the bloodshed, Israel has faced mounting pressure to investigate the events surrounding the flotilla raid and to ease or lift its blockade on the Hamas Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu said Sunday Israel would continue discussions with the international community to prevent weapons and military equipment from reaching Gaza and to allow in humanitarian aid, an apparent signal it was open to revising blockade procedures.

The statement said a retired Israeli Supreme Court justice, Jacob Turkel, would head a committee on which two other Israelis and the two foreign observers would sit.

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

The statement listed David Trimble, a Northern Ireland politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Canadian jurist Ken Watkin as the international participants who will take part in the hearings and deliberations, but will not have the right to vote.

[Fuente: By Ari Rabinovitch, Reuters, Jerusalem, 13Jun10]

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