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Israel considers widening scope of internal flotilla raid probe

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website; BBC profile] said Tuesday that he is considering widening the scope of the internal probe into the May Israeli raid on several Turkish ships bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. Earlier this month, Netanyahu appointed [JURIST report] former Israeli Supreme Court [official website] justice Yakov Turkel to head the investigation, and Turkel has demanded that the investigation be given the same authority [BBC report] as a state commission of inquiry. The internal probe, approved by the Israeli cabinet [JURIST report], does not have the power to subpoena witnesses or recommend sanctions, powers that official state commissions possess. If the probe is considered an official inquiry, witnesses would be required to give testimony under oath. According to Turkel, the Basic Law of Government [text] gives committees appointed by the government the power to conduct a full judicial investigation. Turkel threatened to resign from the commission [Haaretz report] if the scope of the investigation was not widened. He has also requested that two additional members be added to the commission.

The panel has been asked to investigate the events that took place in the early hours of May 31, when Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to the Palestinian territory of Gaza. The raid left numerous wounded and resulted in the shooting deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists: eight Turks and one American. Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] reiterated the importance of an international component [JURIST report] in the investigation into the raid. Ban's original proposal to establish an investigatory panel comprised of representatives from Israel, Turkey, and other unnamed countries, was rejected by Israeli officials [JURIST report]. Israeli officials have insisted that Israel has the ability and the right to resolve matters through an internal investigation and does not require international oversight. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] has also launched an internal investigation [JURIST report] into the flotilla attack. The investigatory unit will study the outcomes of the incident, "establish lessons" and present its findings by July 4.

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