Monday, 9 August 2010

Israel threatens to quit U.N. Gaza flotilla probe

The country's prime minister says it "will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldier"

Israel says it will pull out of an inquiry into a bloody raid on a Turkish flotilla heading for Gaza, after the U.N. chief said there is no agreement to keep Israeli soldiers from testifying.

A statement from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office late Monday said, "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes it absolutely clear that Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers."

This followed an answer by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a news conference to question about whether had agreed to exempt Israeli soldiers from questioning before the panel.

"No, there was no such agreement behind the scenes," Ban said.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's prime minister defended the deadly commando raid on an international flotilla protesting the Gaza blockade before an internal inquiry commission Monday, suggesting that Turkey had sought the violent confrontation on the high seas.

Benjamin Netanyahu told the commission that Ankara had rejected Israel's prior appeals to halt the flotilla and refused to intervene despite the prospect of violence between Israeli troops and the Turkish Islamic charity that organized the mission.

"As we got closer to the date it became clear our diplomatic efforts would not stop it," Netanyahu said. "Apparently the government of Turkey did not see potential friction between Turkish activists and Israel as something that goes against its interests."

The six-ship flotilla was trying to deliver aid to Gaza when it was intercepted by Israeli naval commandos enforcing the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the seaside strip. When troops encountered unexpected resistance on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, they opened fire and killed nine Turkish activists, one of them a dual American citizen.

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