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Ban Ki-moon: Gaza Blockade 'Must be Lifted'

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he considering all the options for an investigation into an Israeli raid aboard a ship carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip that ended in the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists.

Demonstrators hold a sign against the blockade of the Gaza Strip near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, 31 May 2010. (Photo: AFP) The U.N. chief stepped off a plane from Africa Wednesday and immediately went into separate meetings with ambassadors from Israel, Turkey, the Arab States and the permanent five Security Council member countries.

Afterwards, he told reporters he is ready to take "the necessary action" to start a full investigation into the events on the Turkish flagged ship the Mavi Marmara. But he said he would proceed in a deliberate manner, discussing it with all the concerned parties, before making a decision on how to go forward.

"It [the investigation] should be one which can gain credibility and support from the parties concerned," said Ban Ki-moon. "This is a very sensitive and even difficult, therefore, I am still in the process of these consultations. I will try to make it as impartial, as credible, as transparent as possible."

Mr. Ban added that there are "various options" for the investigation, but would not go into details.

He urged the Israeli authorities to quickly provide a full and detailed accounting of the events surrounding the incident, including information on those detained, wounded and killed.

He also noted the decision by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to send an international fact finding mission to the region to look into possible violations of international law.

Secretary-General Ban said the violence aboard the Turkish ship could have been avoided if Israel had heeded earlier calls to lift its three-year long blockade which has prevented essential goods from reaching Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

"This tragedy only highlights the serious underlying problem," he said. "The long-running closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is counter-productive, unsustainable and wrong.  It punishes innocent civilians.  It must be lifted by the Israeli authorities immediately."

Turkey and Arab states are calling for an independent, international probe into the raid by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, which was in international waters when it was intercepted. Israel says its soldiers were acting in self-defense because passengers attacked them when the commandos repelled onto the ship from helicopters.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation" into the incident. Several council members said that meant an independent investigation with international elements, while the United States said Israel is capable of investigating itself.  

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