June 8, 2010 / 7:30 PM / 9 years ago

Israel consulting U.S. on probe of Gaza ship raid

An Israeli naval vessel (bottom) patrols beside one of six ships bound for Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea May 31, 2010. REUTERS/Uriel Sinai/Pool

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel is consulting the United States and other countries on the format of its investigation into a deadly raid on a convoy of Gaza aid ships, an Israeli official said Tuesday.

Israel rejected a U.N. proposal for an international probe, but has expressed willingness to involve foreign experts or observers in its own investigation into the handling of the May 31 seizure of six ships heading to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Nine Turks were killed when Israeli commandos stormed one of the ships, sparking an international outcry and deteriorating relations with Turkey, once a close ally to Israel.

Israel, which says the blockade is needed to prevent Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers from growing their military arsenal, says the marines opened fire after being attacked by pipe and knife wielding pro-Palestinian activists.

Stung by a damning U.N. report on its conduct during a war with Hamas in Gaza more than a year ago, Israel has said it does not want international participation in the flotilla investigation. It rejected the Gaza war report as biased.

Israel also refuses to let its soldiers be subject to foreign interrogation.

The official said the soldiers will only be questioned in a separate, military investigation, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials will testify before the panel that is to be announced after the consultations.

Israel hopes to make a final announcement on its decision soon, the official said.

Writing by Ari Rabinovitch

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