5 Jul 2010

Wider powers granted to Israeli inquiry

9:03 pm on 5 July 2010

The Israeli cabinet has agreed to give broader powers to an inquiry into a raid on an international aid flotilla attempting to break a naval blockade of Gaza.

Commandos killed nine Turkish citizens when they halted the flotilla in international waters on 31 May.

Israel has operated a blockade against Gaza since the Palestinian movement Hamas came to power there in 2006.

The ABC reports the wider powers allow the panel to compel witnesses to appear. Former judge Yaakov Tirkel, who is heading the inquiry, had threatened to resign unless the panel was given more powers.

On Sunday the Israeli cabinet unanimously agreed to provide two expert assistants as well as the power to examine witnesses under oath.

An internal military investigation, which was to have finished this week, has postponed its finding until at least 11 July. A third inquiry by Israel's ombudsman is expected to take several more weeks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed two international observers to monitor the panel.