On international waters
Israeli navy storms convoy carrying 700 people, 10,000 tonnes of aid supplies to Gaza.
JERUSALEM – The Israeli army on Monday said that "more than 10 people were killed" when Israeli navy seals stormed a convoy carrying hundreds of passengers and aid destined for the Gaza Strip.
"From an intial report, more than 10 passengers were killed," an Israeli army spokesman said in what was the first official confirmation of deaths on board the convoy.
He did not put a figure on the number of those injured in the deadly raid which occurred early morning in the waters off Gaza.
But a Turkish charity involved with the flotilla said at least 15 people were killed by the Israeli navy raid.
"Fifteen people were killed in the raid, most of them Turkish nationals," said Mohammed Kaya, who heads the Gaza branch of the IHH, a Turkish charity involved with organising the fleet of aid ships.
The Israeli army earlier confirmed "a few people were killed" and said four soldiers had been injured.
The bloody ending to the high-profile mission to deliver supplies to Gaza came on the eve of a meeting in Washington between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Israel’s private channel 10 television, Israeli marine commandos had opened fire after being attacked with axes and knives by a number of the passengers on board the aid ships, the television said.
Israel’s army radio said between 10 and 14 people had been killed in clashes which broke out after the passengers allegedly tried to grab weapons off the naval commandos who tried to storm one of the boats.
It was not clear whether the clashes were taking place on just one of the six boats making up the aid convoy.
Police said Israeli security forces were put on high alert to handle any "possible disturbances" among the country’s Arab Israeli population in the wake of the deadly naval raid.
Turkey’s foreign ministry warned that the raid on the flotilla, which included Turkish vessels, may lead to "irreparable consequences" in bilateral ties.
"We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel," a written statement said.
"This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations," it said.
The democratically elected Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip Monday urged Arabs and Muslims to "rise up" in front of Israeli embassies across the globe in protest against Israel’s deadly raid.
"We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Ismail Haniya, the movement’s prime minister in Gaza, slammed the "ugly attack" in a statement in which he called for "the United Nations to protect the activists" on board the boats.
The Israeli military censor ordered a block on all information regarding those injured or killed during the storming of the ship.
Gaza’s Al-Aqsa television showed footage of black-clad Israeli commandos descending from helicopters and clashing with activists, as well as several wounded people lying on the deck of the ship.
The ships, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on the last leg of an aid mission to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies to Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.
The boats had started heading towards Gaza from international waters of Cyprus at 3:00pm (1200 GMT) Sunday, with organisers saying they hoped to enter Gaza waters during the daylight hours.
About six hours after their departure, three Israeli missile boats left their naval base in the northern coastal city of Haifa on a mission to intercept the flotilla, reporters on board one of the vessels said before being told to turn off their phones.
Israel had at the weekend slammed as "illegal" the convoy’s attempt to break the Gaza blockade and warned it would intercept the ships, tow them to the Ashdod port and detain the activists before seeking to deport them.
It insisted the humanitarian situation is stable in Gaza despite reports to the contrary from the UN and aid agencies and offering to deliver the supplies through its own land crossings.
Gaza is still considered under Israeli occupation as Israel controls air, sea and land access to the Strip.
Human rights groups, both international and Israeli, slammed Israel’s siege of Gaza, branding it “collective punishment.”