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Israeli cabinet allows Gaza flotilla seizure probe

world Updated: Jun 14, 2010 18:27 IST

DPA
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Israel's cabinet unanimously approved on Monday the creation of a committee to investigate the interception last month of six foreign ships carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported.

The "special, independent public" commission will be chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Jacob Turkel, and include international law expert Shabtai Rosen and retired major general Amos Horev, an official government statement said.

Irish Nobel peace laureate Lord William David Trimble and Canadian international lawyer Ken Watkin will also take part in the hearings and deliberations as observers, without the right to vote.

The commission can withhold information from the observers for national security reasons, the statement said.

It will evaluate the interception of the flotilla and Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, in the context of international law.

The commission will report to the premier and the cabinet.

"In light of the vital public interest in allowing the commission to reach the truth, the law enforcement authorities will not use testimonies delivered before the commission as evidence in any legal proceeding," the statement said.

According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the details of the commission were coordinated with the US government.

Israeli naval commandos raided the six-ship flotilla on May 31. On the largest ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, soldiers battled knife and club-wielding activists and shot dead nine, eight of them Turkish and one US citizen of Turkish descent, the government said.

The raid led to fierce international criticism of Israel and calls for an international commission of inquiry.

The seizure also placed Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, first imposed when militants from the salient snatched an Israeli soldier during a cross-border raid in June 2006, firmly in the spotlight, and increased calls for it to be lifted or at least modified.