Israel announces inquiry into Gaza aid ship deaths

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Israel will carry out an inquiry into last month's raid on a flotilla of Gaza-bound aid ships. The inquiry will include two non-voting foreign observers. Israel had earlier rejected a UN call for an international inquiry.

The Mavi Marmara, one of the ships boarded last month.
Image: Free Gaza Movement.

Nine Turkish citizens were killed on May 31, when Israeli naval commandos boarded a vessel in the flotilla, the MV Mavi Marmara.

The three-man inquest into the boarding action, which took place in international waters, will be headed by ex-Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel. A retired military officer and a professor of international law are the other members. The two foreign observers will be Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble and a former jurist in the Canadian military, Brigadier General Kenneth Watkin. They are to watch the panel consider how the Turks died, as well as judge whether the naval blockade of Gaza is allowable under international law.

Middle East peace envoy for the Madrid Quartet, Tony Blair, said that he hoped that the Israeli blockade on Gaza would be softened within days, whilst the White House backed a Security Council statement calling for a "prompt, impartial [and] credible" review. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the inquest did "not correspond to what the Security Council asked for".

The Turkish government is not satisfied with Israel's inquiry. Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, said in a news conference that Israel's "one-sided inquiry" is insufficient, and his country wishes for a commission to be set up under the control of the United Nations. Turkey has withdrawn their ambassador to Israel and canceled joint military exercises. It is calling for the blockade, which the Red Cross says violates the Geneva Convention, to be lifted.