The UN panel appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to probe the May 31 Gaza-bound flotilla met for the first time Tuesday, discussing the incident "with good cooperation and in a positive atmosphere," according to a UN statement Thursday.

The panel began its investigation amid a slew of inquiries and would-be probes into the flotilla incident, including the ongoing Turkel Committee in Israel, a competing UN investigation from the Human Rights Council, and an independent inquiry from a dissatisfied Turkey.

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Counting the initial, internal IDF investigation into the matter, there have been at least five formal investigations announced into the flotilla raid, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens aboard the flagship Mavi Marmara.

The UN panel met for two full days on the 10 and the 11 of August. It plans to meet again in early September. Ban Ki-moon, who appointed the inquiry, has asked for an interim report on Sept. 15, which the panel will "strive to produce."

The four-member panel is chaired by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, and co-chaired by former Columbian President Alvaro Uribe. Businessman Joseph Ciechanover represents Israel, and Özdem Sanberk Turkey.

A number of organizations are jostling to establish probes into the flotilla incident.

The initial investigation by the IDF, headed by
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, concluded in a 100-page report that a series of operational and intelligence mistakes had led to the botched raid against the Mavi Marmara, but found no "failures" on the IDF's part.

International pressure on Israel did not relent after the military's probe, and a second Israeli inquiry was established, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel. The panel's ongoing investigation has called leading Israeli politicians to testify, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Turkey, dissatisfied with the investigations established by Israel and the international community, has set up its own panel to investigate the flotilla, which will "investigate the attack and the treatment the activists faced." 

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council is conducting its own investigation, not heeding calls to stand down for Ban-Ki Moon's 4-man panel.

The International Federation for Human Rights slammed Ban's inquiry, saying that
“In failing to meet the standards of an effective investigation, this probe risks contributing to a culture of impunity."

Israel has refused to cooperate with the Human Rights Council probe.

Ban Ki-Moon's panel sparked controversy when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu threatened to pull out after the Secretary General said the probe might investigate Israeli soldiers, which Netanyahu had expressly forbidden in agreeing to the UN inquiry.


Jordana Horn and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.



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