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Barak Defends Gaza Flotilla Raid

Israel's defense minister says a Gaza-bound aid flotilla raided by Israeli commandos in May was a "planned provocation," and that the Israeli government anticipated violence when considering its response.

Ehud Barak testified in Jerusalem Tuesday before an Israeli panel investigating the raid.

Barak also told the panel, which includes five Israelis and two international observers that he takes "full responsibility" for the raid.

Justified action

Barak's testimony Tuesday comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli inquiry commission that the military action was justified.

The prime minister said he is sure the inquiry will find that Israeli forces acted according to international law. He said Turkey rejected Israeli appeals to halt the flotilla.

Meanwhile, Israel threatened Monday to pull out of a United Nations inquiry investigating the deadly commando raid on the aid flotilla, after the U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said there is no arrangement preventing the panel from questioning Israeli soldiers.

No cooperation

In response, Mr. Netanyahu's office issued a terse statement saying Israel "will not cooperate with, and will not participate in, any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers."

Israel had been preparing for the United Nations inquiry -- due to begin Tuesday -- when the U.N. chief made his remark, throwing plans into turmoil.

Israeli commandos killed eight pro-Palestinian Turkish activists and a Turkish-American in the raid. The aid flotilla was trying to break an Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Israel says its forces acted in self-defense after they were attacked by activists wielding clubs and knives. The military held its own investigation and defended the use of force.