Ex-SC judge to head Israeli panel on Gaza-bound aid flotilla | world | Hindustan Times
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Ex-SC judge to head Israeli panel on Gaza-bound aid flotilla

world Updated: Jun 13, 2010 19:19 IST

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Amid mounting international pressure, Israel on Sunday appointed a former Supreme Court judge to head a committee to examine the events surrounding the bloody takeover of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla two weeks ago that led to the death of nine people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that former Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Tirkel will head the Israeli investigative committee that will look into the events surrounding the takeover of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turkish dead on May 31.

However, it falls short of meeting demands raised by several countries that Israel inquire the deadly raid by Naval commandos that left nine dead and several dozens wounded.

The PMO said on Saturday that the conditions were not yet ripe for such an announcement "due to political reasons", Ha'aretz online reported. Netanyahu said he had personally updated US President Barack Obama about his decision.

Referring to the siege on Gaza at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting today, the hawkish Israeli premier said discussions on the decision to blockade the Strip had taken place "even before the Gaza-bound flotilla."

"These discussions continued last week, inter alia, in the meetings I held on the subject with Quartet envoy Tony Blair," Netanyahu said.

He said the "principle guiding our policy is clear, to prevent war material from entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid and non-contraband goods into the Gaza Strip."

Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday cancelled a planned trip to a Paris arms show. His office described the decision to cancel his France visit as part of his desire to be present in the discussion over the formation of the Gaza flotilla probe committee.

It is being speculated that Barak wants to avoid a situation in which Netanyahu would give in to international pressure and agree to make "unacceptable changes to the committee's charter".

Israeli authorities have held talks with the US administration and several European countries to rally support for the mandate of the committee of inquiry and approval of its makeup.

The Americans are said to have rejected Israel's proposals a number of times and demanded that a retired Supreme Court justice head the probe. The issue was resolved when Justice Tirkel was proposed for the post.

Israel Defence Forces are holding a separate inquiry into the incident that triggered world-wide condemnation of the bloody commando operation.