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Israel: Decision Soon on Gaza Raid Probe

Monday, 07 June 2010 10:44 PM

An Israeli minister says he expects a decision soon on an investigation into Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left eight Turks and a Turkish-American dead.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel is now considering the options for an investigation and is dealing with the United States and the United Nations.

He told The Associated Press on Monday that "a decision will be published in a short time."

The U.N. Security Council has called for "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards," and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been trying to bridge differences between Israel, Turkey and other key parties.

Turkey's leader on Monday said Israel's raid was a violation of international law and human values, and he urged Israel to accept an international probe into the raid.

Israel has sought to portray the slain activists as terrorists, saying they prepared for the fight before boarding the flotilla. Israel has insisted its troops acted in self defense after being attacked by some of the activists on board.

"If there is hatred, it is Israel's hatred. If there is terror, it is Israel's state terrorism," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Israeli military on Monday released the names of five of the activists it said had long ties to terror organizations.

Erdogan said Israel should "look in the mirror" for the perpetrators of terrorism and called on the United States to "protect the honor of its own citizen," in reference to the 19-year-old slain activist, Furkan Dogan.

In response to a question about the five activists whom Israel accuses of ties to terrorist organizations, Erdogan said: "If there were any terrorists, then why were they set free?"

Israel, which has faced strong international criticism for the botched military operation, decided not to prosecute the activists in an effort to limit diplomatic outrage and hundreds were deported.

Assad said the blockade on Gaza must be removed. Israel has ignored pressure to lift the blockade, which it imposed after the militant group Hamas violently seized power in the territory three years ago. Israel says it is necessary to keep out weapons and goods such as cement and steel that could be diverted by Hamas for military use.

"This embargo, this blockade must be lifted and at the same time Israeli must be placed in a cage of crime, it must be placed under quarantine so that it cannot spread disease to anybody," Assad said.

Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Israel should declare it agrees to the probe proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He said: "Otherwise, it means that they have something to hide."

Israel's ambassador to the U.S. has said Israel rejects the idea.

Israel objects to such an inquiry, believing the international community is biased against Israel. It points to many U.N. resolutions against Israel over the years.

Israel also believes it is capable of investigating the incident itself. Israel has an independent judiciary and has carried out probes in the past, such as a report into its war in Lebanon in 2006 that resulted in a series of high-level resignations.

Erdogan strongly urged Hamas and its rival Fatah movement to quickly reconcile differences at a time of need for Palestinian unity.

"Hamas has given its consent to us to broker a dialogue," Erdogan said. "We will also talk to Fatah and see their position."

Egypt is also sponsoring talks between the two main Palestinian factions, which have been bitterly divided since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, leaving Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah in control only of the West Bank.

Turkey, which had a solid alliance with Israel until the three-week Gaza war that ended in early 2009, said it would reduce military and trade ties and shelved discussions of energy projects, including natural gas and fresh water shipments. It threatened to break ties unless Israel apologizes for the raid last week.

Turkish leaders and Assad spoke on the opening day of a summit on security in Asia. Nine heads of state, including leaders of Iran and Syria, and Russia's prime minister are scheduled to attend the two-day Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, or CICA.

Turkey said Israel, also a member, was invited but not expected to attend.

The flotilla raid prompted a worldwide outcry and growing demands that Israel ease or lift the blockade that has been in place since 2007 as a means of pressuring Hamas, which controls the territory. Under the blockade, most exports from Gaza are banned, further hurting its economy.

On Saturday, Israel commandeered another aid ship without incident. All 19 activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate, and crew were deported Sunday.

Turkey said it considers Gaza as well as the conflict in Afghanistan as test cases for the security group that includes Russia, Iran and South Korea. The group last met in 2006. Turkey is assuming the presidency of the group from Kazakhstan. Iraq and Vietnam will become new members on Tuesday morning before the heads of state convene.


Associated Press Writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.





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An Israeli minister says he expects a decision soon on an investigation into Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left eight Turks and a Turkish-American dead. Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel is now considering the options for an...
Monday, 07 June 2010 10:44 PM
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