Israel rejects international inquiry into flotilla raid

Washington (ANTARA News/AFP) - Israel will not participate in any international investigation of its raid on a ship seeking to break a blockade on the Gaza Strip, Israel`s ambassador to Washington said Sunday.

"We are rejecting the idea of an international commission," Michael Oren told "Fox News Sunday."

"Israel is a democracy. Israel has the ability and the right to investigate itself, not to be investigated by any international board," he added.

The Israeli diplomat said his government was talking to President Barack Obama`s administration about "the way in which our inquiry will take place," but had no intention of acceding to demands by a number of governments for a independent inquiry into the May 31 raid, which left nine people dead.

The operation, in which Israeli naval commandos boarded a ship seeking to deliver aid to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, provoked global outrage, straining Israel`s relationship with Turkey.

Eight of those killed in the raid were Turkish citizens and the ninth was a joint US-Turkish citizen, prompting a furious response from Turkey`s government, which recalled its ambassador to Ankara.

The United States offered its condolences to the families of those killed, and has said it is looking into the circumstances of the American citizen`s death, but refrained from the strong criticism issued by other governments.

Oren said the incident had not strained Israel`s relations with the Obama administration.

"I`ll say personally throughout this entire episode, days of work with the administration, I never heard one word of criticism, not one rancorous comment at all," he said.

The raid drew renewed attention to Israel`s blockade of the Gaza Strip, which it says is necessary to prevent Hamas from obtaining material that can be used to make weapons.

The United Nations and Washington have called the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip intolerable, but Oren said there was no better alternative to the blockade.

"We are open to any ideas of how to somehow deal with the Gaza situation," he said. "We`re talking about Hamas here. We`re not talking about a peaceful organization."

Israel felt "sadness" over the deterioration of relations with Turkey, Oren said, but added the Jewish state would not accede to Ankara`s demand for an apology.

"We regret all the casualties in this incident... particularly the Israeli casualties," he said.

But, he added: "Israel will not apologize for taking the measures necessary to defend its citizens and... to defend the lives of our soldiers." (*)

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