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Israel appoints 'experts' to examine flotilla incident

By the CNN Wire Staff
Hamas naval police in Gaza hold a ceremony Sunday for  nine people killed during an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.
Hamas naval police in Gaza hold a ceremony Sunday for nine people killed during an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.
  • Israel taps reserve general to head "team of experts"
  • Team will examine investigations for common ground
  • French president urges Israel to "follow up" with United Nations
  • Israel insists it can handle investigation alone

(CNN) -- The Israeli military's chief of general staff has appointed a reserve general to lead "a team of experts" to examine Israel's interception of a flotilla bound for Gaza last week in order to "establish lessons from the event," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Israeli commandos intercepted the first convoy at sea May 31 and stormed the largest vessel, the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara. At least nine people aboard the ship were killed.

The ships were carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, organizers said. The Palestinian territory has been blockaded by Israel since its takeover by the Islamic movement Hamas in 2007.

Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, tapped Reserve Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland to head the team of experts, defined by the IDF as different from an investigative team because the experts are "a group of professionals with expertise on the matter and were not a part of the operational chain of command during this specific incident."

According to the IDF, the team will "analyze the various investigations" already underway seeking common ground in the findings of the investigations. The team's report is due July 4.

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  • Israel
  • Gaza

The U.N. Security Council has called for an independent inquiry into the flotilla raid, and the U.N. Human Rights Council has condemned the assault and voted to launch an investigation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed that issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a telephone call Monday, asking Netanyahu "to follow up the United Nations Security Council's calls for a credible, impartial investigation," according to a statement from Sarkozy's office.

Sarkozy told the Israeli premier that France would be willing to participate, the statement said.

Israeli officials have defended the legality of the raid, criticizing those aboard the Mavi Marmara for attacking the boarding party and insisting that they can handle the investigation themselves.