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UN Pushes for Probe of Israel's Deadly Raid on Aid Flotilla

  • Robert Berger

Israel is resisting growing international pressure over the raid on Gaza-bound aid ships last week that left nine pro-Palestinian international activists dead.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for an international investigation into Israel's deadly flotilla raid. Mr. Ban discussed the matter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and proposed that the panel be headed by a former prime minister of New Zealand. But Israel, which does not trust the United Nations, has proposed an Israeli-led investigation with foreign observers.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "violent extremists" were responsible for the bloodshed aboard the flotilla.

He said that militants armed with clubs and knives boarded the ship separately and without the same security checks as other activists. He said their aim was to attack Israeli soldiers. Israeli video shows men with clubs beating commandos when they stormed the ship on the high seas off the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Netanyahu also rejected international demands to lift Israel's crippling three-year-old blockade on Gaza.

The Prime Minister told the Cabinet that Israel will not allow the "establishment of an Iranian port" in Gaza to bring in weapons and materials to make weapons.

The blockade is aimed at preventing the rearmament of the ruling Palestinian militant group Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel. But activists like those on the flotilla say the blockade harms Palestinian civilians.

In a concession aimed at quelling international outrage, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel is willing to ease the blockade to allow more civilian supplies to reach the Palestinian people.