Special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, Tony Blair, said Tuesday that any investigation into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last week had to be “full and impartial” and that Israel had the right to defend itself.
In the May 31 raid, Israeli commandos rappelled onto the deck of one of the ships trying to break Israel’s three-year-old blockade of Gaza. The soldiers were intercepted by a crowd of activists, setting off a clash that killed nine men – eight Turks and a Turkish American.
Israel says its soldiers began shooting only after a mob of pro-Palestinian activists attacked them – a version backed up by video footage released by the army. But the activists and their supporters say Israeli commandos needlessly opened fire.
The incident triggered a storm of criticism of Israel, followed by countless calls for an international investigation into the incident. Israel has so far rejected an international probe, but is taking steps to establish a commission of investigation within Israel, possibly with international observers.
Speaking with Channel 10 a week after the deadly clash, Blair said that he believed the Israeli blockade on Gaza should be lifted but at the same time he also understands Israel’s security concerns.
“There’s no question that there are rockets fired from Gaza and that there are people in Gaza who want to kill innocent Israelis,” he said.
“When it comes to security, I’m 100 percent on Israel’s side. Israel has the right to inspect what goes into Gaza.”
Blair said he was troubled by Turkey’s recent shift in policy that has lead to a deterioration of the Turkey-Israel relationship.
On the Iranian nuclear issue, Blair said that there was no doubt that Iran should be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“Iran with nuclear weapons is not something we should contemplate or allow,” he said.
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