News / Europe

Red Cross: Israel's Gaza Blockade Breaks International Law

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem to rubber stamp the creation of an
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem to rubber stamp the creation of an "independent public commission," to probe Israel's deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last mon

The International Committee of the Red Cross says Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip breaks international law.

The humanitarian agency said Monday that the blockade violates the Geneva Convention, which bans "collective punishment" of a civilian population. The ICRC called on Israel to lift the blockage.

In another development, Middle East envoy Tony Blair meets with European Union foreign ministers Monday. The former British prime minister says he hopes to see movement in the next few days on easing the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Israel's Cabinet is voting Monday on a proposal to set up what it calls an "independent public commission" to examine last month's raid on a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that former Israeli Supreme Court Judge Yaakov Turkel will head a panel to look into events surrounding the takeover of the flotilla on May 31, when Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.

Israel had previously rejected a U.N. proposal for an international panel.

But in his announcement Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu agreed to include two high-ranking foreign observers in its own inquiry.

The panel's two international participants, Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble, and Canada's former chief military prosecutor, retired Brigadier General Ken Watkin, will not have voting power.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday that Mr. Netanyahu's government is in talks with officials from the U.S. and several European governments to ensure broad support for the committee's mandate and membership.

The United States welcomed Israel's announcement that it will conduct its own investigation of the flotilla raid, calling it "an important step forward."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday that Israel's panel is capable of conducting a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation" into the incident.

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