Israeli PM defends Gaza flotilla operation before probe panel

08:06, August 10, 2010      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Reut Hall of the Yitzhak Rabin Guest House to testify before a state-appointed inquiry into the Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, in Jerusalem Aug. 9, 2010. The Turkel committee, an investigation panel into Israeli Navy's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in late May, started its first round of inquiring of Israeli senior officials on Monday. (Xinhua/POOL/Ronen Zvulun)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday laid out Israel's case for a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla before members of an investigation commission.

"The appearance of Israel's Prime Minister before this committee today is the best evidence of the high standards by which Israel's democracy functions," Netanyahu said shortly after he strode into the brightly lit hall at the Rabin Guest House in Jerusalem.

Taking a seat at a small desk facing the dais to make his opening statement, Netanyahu appeared at ease. He said he was " convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will be clear that the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces conducted themselves in accordance with international law."

The Turkel Committee, a commission of inquiry approved by Israeli cabinet on June 14, was formed to investigate the May 31 commando raid aboard the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which ended in the deaths of nine foreign nationals, and the legality of the continued maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The committee is headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, including other two Israelis and two international observers.

Netanyahu said in the hearing that the May 31 operation and the ongoing naval blockade on the enclave were intended to keep Israel safe against Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Gaza strip at the present.

By Dave Bender, Gur Salomon, Geng Xuepeng, Xinhua
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