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Israel Initiates External Military Probe into Flotilla Affair; Civilian Probe Tentative

While Israel’s government continues to fend-off international calls for an investigation into last week’s deadly flotilla affair, its army chief-of-staff has initiated an external probe to be headed by retired Gen. Giora Eiland (photo), a senior figure in Israeli security affairs. Appointment of the panel, which includes other retired military officers, is considered to be exceptional. The panel will look into the operational aspects of the incident, including how each element involved performed. On the civilian side, it appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu has bowed to international pressure and will appoint a commission of inquiry that will include external oversight once the White House signs-off on the plan. The area where Netanyahu has held firm is in restricting the probe to the political echelon, excluding naval commandos and the military from the inquiry. No final decision on the nature and composition of the panel is expected before next Sunday’s cabinet meeting.  

British Foreign Secretary Opposes Iranian Plans for Gaza Aid Ships

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday that Iran’s plans to send aid ships to the Gaza Strip would deliberately aggravate an already tense situation. Following a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Hague referred to the Iranian announcement of aid ships, saying that, “It is not helpful, and probably it is not designed to be helpful.”  France and Italy have joined the U.K. in urging Israel to conduct an inquiry into the flotilla affair with an international presence participating. Hague also suggested that Israel’s mistrust of the United Nations could be addressed by tasking the European Union with a role in the inquiry and in carrying out inspections of Gaza-bound ships to allay Israeli fears of weapon smuggling. In Beirut, after Hizbullah chief Sheikh Sayad Hasan Na’srallah expressed his support for sending 3 ships from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip to break the Israeli blockade, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir disagreed, telling reporters “We’re not men of war.” 

Turkish Premier Wants to Mediate Between Hamas and Fatah

Now established as a hero to Palestinians for his vociferous verbal attacks on Israel, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to be the force that re-unites Hamas with Fatah. Erdogan told reporters at a joint news conference with visiting Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad that Palestinian unity “is a must” and that he stands ready to make it happen. Edrogan said he’s already received a green light from Hamas and will press Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud ‘Abbas, the head of Fatah, for a similar go-ahead when the two meet in Ankara on Tuesday. Erdogan criticized western nations that refuse to deal with Hamas, admonishing that, “No one in the international community has the authority to put Hamas and Fatah on different status... Saying that Fatah is a group that one can talk to and dismissing Hamas as a terrorist organization is a very serious mistake." 

Arabic Newspaper: Yemen Has Detained 50 Foreign Nationals in Terror Probe

The Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat is reporting that at least fifty foreign nationals have been detained by Yemeni authorities in an ongoing terror probe following an attempt to bomb an airplane headed to the U.S. last December. All are suspected of having ties to Al-Qa’ida according to the newspaper, and include citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Malaysia. Increasingly, Yemen is seen as the staging ground for the development of Al-Qa’ida’s international terrorist operations. On Monday, a senior Al-Qa’ida operative surrendered to authorities in Yemen. Hamza Saleh Al-Dayan, who escaped from a Yemeni jail in 2006 and is believed to be responsible for a 2007 attack that killed four, turned himself in to the regional government in the province of Maarib.

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