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Israel rejects UN probe
- Tel Aviv proposes internal inquiry into Gaza raid

Jerusalem, June 6 (Agencies): Israel today rejected a proposal by UN secretary-general Ban ki-Moon for an international investigation into its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship and said it had the right to launch its own inquiry.

“We are rejecting an international commission. We are discussing with the Barack Obama administration a way in which our inquiry will take place,” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, said today.

The UN chief had suggested establishing a panel that would be headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and include representatives from Turkey, Israel and the US.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the proposal for a multinational panel with Ban in a telephone call yesterday but told cabinet ministers from his Right-wing Likud party today that Israel was exploring other options, political sources said.

Nine Turks were killed last Monday in an Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, part of a six-vessel convoy that set out to challenge an Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel has said its troops used lethal force in self-defence after they were set upon by pro-Palestinian activists wielding clubs and knives.

The outrage over the deaths has also prompted calls from many nations, including the US, for at least a partial lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Israeli leaders have spoken publicly about setting up an internal investigation with foreign observers into the interception of the Turkish-flagged ship off the coast of Gaza, an enclave run by Hamas Islamists who oppose Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s peace efforts with Israel.

“Israel is a democratic nation. Israel has the ability and the right to investigate itself, not to be investigated by any international board,” Oren said.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara would insist on an independent commission and suggested that Israel’s rejection of an international inquiry showed it wanted to cover up the facts of the raid. “We want to know the facts. If Israel rejects this, it means it is also another proof of their guilt. They are not self-confident to face the facts,” he said.

Turkey’s relations with Israel, once a close ally, have soured since the deadly raid.

Israel’s navy boarded another ship carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to Gaza yesterday. Its interception of the Irish-owned MV Rachel Corrie ended today without violence following diplomatic efforts to avoid bloodshed.

“I want to pay tribute to the crew of the Rachel Corrie for demonstrating in no uncertain terms their peaceful intentions,” Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin told Irish public radio RTE.

An Israeli official said Israel wanted to establish whether the Turkish government had sponsored the Mavi Marmara, where the strength of the resistance to the boarding party appeared to have caught the Israeli military off guard. Israel has said seven of its troops were wounded.

Netanyahu today said a smaller group of “violent extremists” had boarded the ship separately with the intention of clashing with troops.

Photographs obtained by Reuters today that were shot on board the Mavi Marmara showed bleeding and cowering Israeli troops surrounded by activists. The photographs were taken by a member of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Aid (IHH), which organised the convoy, said spokesperson Salih Bilici.

Israeli authorities confiscated activists’ cameras and erased the memory cards but the IHH was able to recover photos on one camera using special software, Bilici said.

There are no pictures of outright violence but many of the photographs show puddles of blood on the floor or streaks smeared across walls.

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