Israel’s military is launching its own investigation of last week’s commando raid that killed nine activists on an aid flotilla trying to break the blockade on Gaza.
The Israeli military’s announcement it has set up a panel to investigate the raid comes as international criticism continues to grow.
Israel rejects calls for an international probe. The announcement was made a day after Defense Minister Ehud Barak said his government will not allow foreign investigators to scrutinize Israeli soldiers.
He said it is not Israel’s intention to allow Israeli soldiers to be interrogated, not in Hebrew and not in English. He says Israeli army investigations are “among the best in the world.”
Critics, including some opposition lawmakers, questioned whether the military can conduct a credible investigation.
Pro-Palestinian activists and others in the international community accuse Israel of using excessive force when its commandos stormed the main vessel of the flotilla on May 31, leaving nine activists dead. Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defense when those on board attacked the commandos.
The raid has called worldwide attention to Israel’s three-year-old blockade on Gaza, and raised doubts among some Israelis who question whether the embargo should be sustained.
Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent the flow of weapons to its enemies – members of the militant Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.
The blockade – which had also been enforced by Egypt – prevents the entry of weapons materials, and also some civilian goods like cement, some types of candy, and other items that Israel says could have a dual military purpose.
Members of the Israeli Cabinet have called for setting up a commission to examine the legality of the blockade.
Shlomo Brom, a retired Brigadier General formerly in charge of strategic planning in the Israel Defense Forces, tells VOA he does not see it as a question of legality.
“It is not a violation of international law, because a blockade is a legitimate instrument of war,” Brom said. “We are actually in a status of war with the government in the Gaza strip because of its choice. They choose to be in a status of war with us.”
But Brom, like some others in Israel, questions the effectiveness of the blockade. He believes the government should review the policy and adopt a different strategy to achieve its goal, which is to topple Hamas.