Israel pledges to review flotilla raid itself
Blocks Asian bid for international approach to case
JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said yesterday that it will have its own experts examine what caused a naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla to turn deadly, while nations led by Turkey condemned the operation and intensified demands for an international investigation.
Also yesterday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to agree to international participation in an investigation into the raid. UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Ban wants to underscore that “credible international involvement is crucial to a prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent investigation,’’ which the Security Council called for after Israel’s May 31 raid that killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American.
Turkey’s president released a statement yesterday from 21 Asian countries meeting at a security summit that said “all member states, except one, expressed their grave concern and condemnation for the actions undertaken by the Israeli Defense Forces.’’
President Abdullah Gul said 21 of the 22 nations in the grouping, which includes Israel, have also called on the Jewish state to end its blockade of Gaza and to agree to an international investigation of the incident.
An overwhelming majority of the countries also called for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East and for Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and place all of its nuclear facilities under the safeguard of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Gul said.
Israel managed to block a joint declaration by the group, whose decisions require consensus, that would have condemned the raid, forcing Turkey to issue a separate statement attached to the declaration.
Israel is widely believed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal. Israel refuses to confirm or deny the suspicion.
Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity is a cornerstone of its military deterrence. It has long said that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace must precede such weapons bans.
Israel has never signed the nonproliferation treaty, which requires members to open nuclear facilities to inspection and to disarm.
In the May 31 raid, Israeli commandos rappelled onto the deck of one of the ships trying to break Israel’s three-year-old blockade of Gaza. The soldiers were intercepted by a crowd of activists, setting off a clash that killed the nine men.
Israel says its soldiers began shooting only after a mob of pro-Palestinian activists attacked them — a version backed up by video footage released by the army. But the activists and their supporters say Israeli commandos needlessly opened fire.
The episode triggered a storm of criticism of Israel, which has rejected calls for an international investigation, saying it would be biased against the Jewish state.
Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, added his weight to the calls for such a probe.
“It has to be investigated specially,’’ Putin said at a news conference in Istanbul with Turkey’s prime minister, a fierce critic of Israel since its war in Gaza 18 months ago.
The Israeli analysts will review several internal military investigations already underway. The military said it expects findings by July 4 into what went wrong with last week’s naval operation.
Israel has so far failed to defuse the calls as well as pressure to end the blockade, part of a landslide of diplomatic fallout that has included serious damage to its relations with Turkey.