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Israel`s security agency against lifting Gaza blockade

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - 00:06

Jerusalem: Amid global demand to lift
the siege of the Gaza Strip, Israel`s internal security agency
on Tuesday warned the government against it, saying the move will
have "dangerous repercussions".

Shin Bet`s head Yuval Diskin told the Knesset`s
influential Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, "It would
be a huge security breach, even if ships are inspected along
the way in international ports en route to Gaza."
He said that lifting the siege of the coastal
territory ruled by Islamist Hamas that wrested power from the
Palestinian Authority (PA) forces in pitched gun battles would
be a "dangerous development for Israel."

The Shin Bet head also accused militant organisations
in Gaza of trying to gain strength by hoarding weapons
produced independently or smuggled through tunnels on the
Gaza-Egypt border.

"The Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are in possession of
5,000 rockets in the Gaza Strip, with a range of up to 40
kilometres. Of those rockets, 4,000 belong to Hamas," Diskin
alleged.

"Hamas also possesses several rockets that can reach
central Israel," he added.
Countering Israeli leadership`s recent statements over
their willingness to ease the general blockade on Gaza, the
security head said, "there is no humanitarian crisis in the
Gaza Strip. I don`t have any problem with easing the transfer
of goods from Israel. But weapons are being smuggled right now
from Sinai."

Israel`s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
yesterday said that while he is in favour of easing
restrictions on Gaza to let necessary goods in, the siege on
the territory will continue to prevent arms smuggling.

Israel`s govt watchdog to probe Gaza flotilla raid

Israel`s government watchdog, the
state comptroller, said on Tuesday it will launch its own
investigation into the decision-making process that led to the
navy`s deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

"The state comptroller has decided to investigate various
aspects related to the Turkish flotilla," State Comptroller
Micha Lindenstrauss wrote in a letter to the parliament, or
Knesset.

The inquiry would focus on "the decision-making process
of the government, the public relations and intelligence"
aspects of the May 31 naval raid that left nine Turks dead and
scores of people injured, he said.

But the probe would not examine the actions taken by the
Israeli navy seals who rappelled down onto the deck of the
Turkish passenger ship and ended up using live ammunition
against activists on board in what Israel claims was purely
self defence.

"We will not deal with the actual action by the forces,
which is being investigated internally by the army, or the
legal issues being dealt with by the committee set up with
international participation by the government."

The move was brushed off by government officials as a
"routine" occurrence.

The state comptroller "is obviously an independent body,
whose job is to investigate the government and this is routine
behavior," a senior Israeli government official told AFP.

The announcement comes a day after the government
unveiled a three-man committee to look into the raid, which
will include two foreign observers.

But the so-called Tirkel Commission, headed by retired
justice Yaakov Tirkel, has only a limited mandate to look into
the legality of Israel`s Gaza blockade and of its raid on the
ship, which was in international waters at the time.

Completely independent of government, the state
comptroller has broad investigatory powers to examine the
conduct and activities of public institutions including the
government and its ministries, the armed forces and any other
state-related organism.

The office of the state comptroller reports back to
parliament, but has no authority to impose sanctions.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - 00:06

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