Israel sets up inquiry into deadly Gaza flotilla raid
Israel has set up an internal inquiry into its deadly raid last month on a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships.
Israel earlier rejected a UN proposal for an international probe, but has now agreed to include two foreign observers in its own inquiry.
Nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the ships in international waters on 31 May.
Meanwhile, Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair says he hopes Israel will allow more humanitarian items into Gaza.
Washington welcomed the announcement of the inquiry, describing it as "an important step forward".
ISRAEL'S FLOTILLA INQUIRY
- Three-man panel
- Headed by ex-Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel
- Other members: Amos Horev, a retired military officer; and Shabbtai Rosen, a professor of international law
- Two foreign observers: David Trimble and Ken Watkin
- Will consider how nine Turkish activists died after their ship was boarded by Israeli commandos
- Will also adjudge whether Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is allowed under international law
But Turkey's foreign minister said Ankara had "no trust at all" that Israel would conduct an impartial investigation.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Blair said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed in principle to move from a list of items that are currently permitted into Gaza into a list of prohibited goods - and that was a "significant change".
Mr Blair added that the Israeli government would consider the plan in the coming days.
He was speaking before briefing European Union foreign ministers at talks on the Gaza blockade in Brussels.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said Israel's blockade of Gaza is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.
In a statement, the ICRC described the situation in Gaza as dire, saying the only sustainable solution was a lifting of the blockade.'Transparent investigation'
Last month's clashes came after six ships carrying campaigners and 10,000 tonnes of aid sailed from Cyprus in an attempt to break Israel's three-year blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
An experienced politician like Benjamin Netanyahu knows that getting the outcome you want from a public inquiry is all about the right terms of reference and who you appoint to sit on the inquiry.
So, the commissions' remit does not include looking at the process of government decision making which led to Israeli commando raid. It will instead focus on questions of international law.
And the two foreign observers who have been appointed are seen as friends of Israel.
Turkey - and others critical of Israel - want a fully independent UN commission of inquiry. This demand has now been deflected with the appointment of credible (but not unfriendly) international figures as non-voting observers.
Whatever happens in the commission of inquiry, Israel is under immense pressure - from allies as well as enemies - to lift the Gaza blockade.
Israel says its troops acted in self-defence when activists attacked commandos trying to board the main vessel in the flotilla. The campaigners say the soldiers opened fire without any provocation.
The proposal for an Israeli inquiry into the Gaza convoy raid was approved by the country's cabinet on Monday.
"The government decision will make it clear to the world that Israel is acting legally, responsibly, and with complete transparency," Mr Netanyahu told the cabinet, according to Haaretz newspaper.
The three-man panel will be led by former Israeli Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel. The other members are Amos Horev, a retired major-general in the Israeli military and a former president of the Israel Institute of Technology, and Shabtai Rosen, a professor of international law.
But the premise of the inquiry was quickly criticised by Turkey.
"We have no trust at all that Israel, a country that has carried out such an attack on a civilian convoy in international waters, will conduct an impartial investigation," said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
"To have a defendant acting simultaneously as both prosecutor and judge is not compatible with any principle of law."
The AFP news agency also reported Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as saying that the terms of the inquiry would not comply with demands made by the UN Security Council.
End Quote Red Cross statement
The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility”
The two foreign experts - former Northern Ireland first minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble and retired Canadian military prosecutor Ken Watkin - will take part in the hearings and subsequent discussions, but they will not vote on the conclusions of the inquiry.
Lord Trimble, the former Ulster Unionist leader, won the Nobel prize for his role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the worst of the political violence in Northern Ireland. Since stepping aside from politics there, he has travelled to the Middle East to speak about conflict resolution.