Israel flotilla probe due Sunday

AFP , Thursday 20 Jan 2011

The Israeli commission investigating the deadly Mavi Marmara raid is set to release its first report on Sunday

An Israeli commission investigating last May's deadly raid on aid ships trying to break a blockade on the Gaza Strip will release its first report on Sunday, an official source said.

The Israeli naval raid killed nine Turkish citizens, prompting an international outcry and throwing relations between Tel Aviv and Ankara into a deep crisis.

Israel decided in July to launch its own inquiry into the incident, though it has publicly defended its actions, accusing activists on board the boats of carrying weapons and attacking its troops when they boarded.

"The commission will publicly deliver on Sunday the first part of the report, which will cover in particular the legality of the maritime blockade of Gaza as well as the action of the Israeli military and the flotilla's passengers," a spokesman for the commission, Ofer Lefter, told AFP.

The inquiry commission, headed by former judge Yaakov Tirkel, is examining several aspects of the raid, which occurred on 31 May as a group of aid ships led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara sailed to the Gaza Strip.

Israel imposed a blockade on the coastal enclave of the Gaza Strip in June 2006 after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, who is still being held there.

It was tightened a year later when Hamas seized power in the territory of 1.5 million people, ousting its Fatah rivals.

The commission has heard testimony from high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and army chief General Gaby Ashkenazi.

None of the soldiers who actually participated in the raid have been authorised to provide their testimony.

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