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Israeli cabinet approves probe commission

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Israeli cabinet backs 'independent public commission'
  • Netanyahu hopes decision will ease international criticism against Israel
  • IDF troops will not be required to testify before panel
  • Hamas says only an international panel could be impartial

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel's cabinet unanimously backed the creation of an "independent public commission" Monday to investigate the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, the prime minister's office said.

After a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hopes this decision will appease some of the international criticism against Israel that followed the deaths of nine activists in the so-called Free Gaza Flotilla incident on May 31.

"I estimate that the cabinet's decision this morning to establish a special, independent public commission will make it clear to the entire world that the state of Israel acts according to law, transparently, and with full responsibility," said Netanyahu.

According to Netanyahu, Israel Defense Forces soldiers will not be required to testify before the commission. Instead, the IDF "will transfer to the commission the summaries of its operational investigation," he said.

Netanyahu said he hopes to prove, through the commission, that the IDF took the appropriate defensive actions in handing the flotilla incident.

Dr. Ahmed Yousef, a top Hamas advisor, told CNN he has no faith in an Israeli-led investigation and only an international investigation committee could be impartial.

"How could the enemy be the judge? The Israelis want to form an inquiry committee to submit the decision; this committee would not convince anyone in the world," said Yousef.

"But for the Israelis to form a judging committee, this is not acceptable and it will not be convincing to the world, for the enemy to be the judge," he said.

During a noon Monday briefing, Farhan Haq, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Ban's call for an international investigation into Israel's raid on the flotilla still stands.

"A thorough Israeli investigation is important, and could fit with the secretary-general's proposal, which would fully meet the international community's expectation for a credible and impartial investigation," Haq said. "His proposal for an international inquiry remains on the table, and he hopes for a positive Israeli response."

Asked to clarify that statement, Haq said the Israeli commission "is not contradictory to [Ban's] own efforts," but more is needed.