ANKARA — The Israeli commission investigating the army's raid on aid ships bound for Gaza will include international participation, Israel's vice premier said Sunday in an interview published in Turkey.
"There will be international elements in the commission which is going to be formed. For the moment it is not totally clear but the commission will be composed of five Israelis and two or three foreigners," Dan Meridor, who also is responsible for intelligence services, told the Turkish newspaper Haberturk.
"They will be foreign specialists respected for their knowledge on these subjects," Meridor said.
Israel has been under pressure from Turkey and other countries to agree to an independent, international commission to investigate the Israeli army's May 31 raid on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in which nine Turks were killed.
The Israelis have said they would hold their own inquiry into the raid on the ships which were challenging Israel's blockade of Gaza imposed when the militant Hamas group took control of the strip of Palestinian territory.
However, according to Israeli media, Israel and the United States are close to an accord on creating a commission which would include two foreign observers, an American and probably a European, and would be headed by a retired judge of Israel's Supreme Court, Yaakov Tirkel.
While Ankara has demanded an apology from Israel for the deadly raid, Meridor expressed "regrets" in the newspaper interview but said responsibility for the violence rested on some of the ship's passengers.
"What happened is a tragedy. I am very sad, I regret it. No one wanted it or expected it. These events should never have happened," Meridor said.
"But if some terrorists got on the ship and attacked our soldiers, I think that they, not us, must apologize," he added.
Meridor also said that the Turkey's Islamist humanitarian organisation IHH, which chartered the ship on which the violence took place, was identified by Israel several years ago as having ties to terrorist groups.
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