Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected criticism of his commandos' storming of an activist flotilla that was trying to break the blockade on Gaza. The raid, Monday, killed nine activists. International criticism is growing, but as our correspondent reports, Israel is not bowing to international pressure for it to lift the blockade on the Palestinian enclave.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unapologetic in the face of mounting criticism.
"Israel regrets the loss of life," said Benjamin Netanyahu. "But we will never apologize for defending ourselves."
He said the flotilla that Israeli commandos raided on Monday intended to break the blockade, not bring aid to Gaza.
Mr. Netanyahu said Israel could not afford to let the flotilla break the blockade, saying that would have been followed by hundreds of boats possibly carrying missiles to the militant Islamist group Hamas that rules Gaza.
"Hamas is smuggling thousands of Iranian rockets, missiles, and other weaponry, smuggling it into Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem," he said.
Mr. Netanyahu said Israel has a right to inspect cargo going into Gaza.
"And we do let civilian goods get into Gaza," said Netanyahu. "There's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Each week an average of 10,000 tons of goods enter Gaza. There's no shortage of food. There's no shortage of medicine. There's no shortage of other goods. So our naval personnel had no choice but to board these vessels."
Israeli authorities said they speeded up deportation of the activists and cleared the last of the nearly 700 people who were aboard the flotilla for departure. Some were flying out on Turkish and Greek airplanes. Another group of nationals of countries that have no diplomatic ties to Israel were bussed to the Jordanian border.
Some, like this man, complained of brutal treatment by the Israelis.
He says he witnessed tragic and bloody scenes. He says he was surprised that Israel, as a democratic state, would mistreat people, and that its reaction was so violent.
Israel dropped plans to prosecute some of the activists for attacking the commandos. But this, along with the release of the activists, and the government's repeated efforts to justify the raid at sea is not stopping the growing wave of criticism.
The parliament of Turkey, where most of the flotilla activists are from, is calling for a review of all of its ties to Israel.
British Prime Minister David Cameron described the raid completely unacceptable and called on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza.
The raid, which came just weeks after the start of U.S.-brokered proximity talks, has cast further doubt on the peace process.
U.S. special envoy George Mitchell is back in the region, but has announced no plans to meet with Israeli leaders.