The U.N. Security Council met in emergency session Monday on how to respond after Israeli commandos intercepted a ship carrying humanitarian aid in international waters and killed at least nine pro-Palestinian activists.
The 15-member council convened an emergency session at the request of members Lebanon and Turkey.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who traveled from South America for the meeting, criticized Israel, calling the Israeli Defense Forces' actions "tantamount to banditry and piracy."
"It is murder conducted by a state," said Ahmet Davutoglu. "It has no excuses, no justification whatsoever. A nation-state that follows this path has lost its legitimacy as a respectful member of the international community."
Davutoglu said Israel's explanation that its military acted in self-defense does not justify its actions. He called Israeli use of force "inappropriate and disproportionate," and said the actions of protestors on the ship did not absolve Israel of its duties under international law.
"To treat humanitarian aid delivery as a hostile act and to treat the aid workers as combatants is a reflection of a dangerous state of mind with detrimental effects to regional and global peace," he said. "Therefore, the Israeli actions cannot be deemed legal or legitimate. Any attempt to legitimize the attack is futile."
The aid ships, carrying about 700 pro-Palestinian activists and 10,000 tons of supplies, headed for Gaza on Sunday. They defied several warnings from the Israeli navy not to approach the Palestinian territory by sea and instructions to deliver their cargo to the Israeli port of Ashdod where authorities would inspect it and deliver it to Gaza.
The flotilla of six ships was led by the Turkish vessel, Mavi Marmara, which was in international waters off of Israel when the commandos intercepted it, boarding it from helicopters.
At the open Security Council session, members strongly condemned the violence and called for an investigation into the events. They also urged the immediate and unconditional release of the protesters who are citizens of 32 countries. After the session, members moved to a closed meeting to consider possible action.
Nearly all of the council members called for an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade that has prevented many goods from reaching Gaza's 1.5 million residents since Hamas took over the territory in 2007.
Israel's deputy U.N. Ambassador Daniel Carmon dismissed the situation in Gaza, telling the council that "no humanitarian crisis" exists there. As for the incident aboard the ship, he said Israel regretted the loss of lives but he denounced the activists, saying they were not there to deliver humanitarian aid, but to make a political statement and that they tried to "lynch" the Israeli soldiers who intervened, using knives and clubs.
"The answer is clear," said Daniel Carmon. "There [sic] are not peace activists; they were not messengers of goodwill. They cynically used the guise of humanitarian aid to send a message of hate and to implement violence."
Israel's staunch ally, the United States, said it was "deeply disturbed" by the violence and regretted the loss of life. But Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff also appeared to criticize the protesters, saying that there are other mechanisms for delivering aid to Gaza and that direct delivery by sea was neither "appropriate nor responsible" under the circumstances.
In comments in Africa, where he is traveling, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and called for a full investigation to determine exactly how the events unfolded.