Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today defended the raid on a Gaza aid ship that left nine people dead, stating the the ship was "not a love boat."
The prime minister spoke defiantly as international criticism continued to build against Israel's high seas confrontation with six ships bringing relief supplies to the embattled Palestinian enclave.
Israeli commandos rappelled onto the decks on the six ships Monday, but on one ship the passengers battled the soldiers with metal rods, wrested weapons from soldiers and fired on them. Nine people died and more than 30 wounded, including several Israeli troops.
Netanyahu said Israel will continue to enforce its blockade of Gaza and defended the raid.
"This was not a love boat," the prime minister said. "This was a hate boat. These weren't pacificists. They were not peace activists. These were violent supporters of terorrism."
Netanyahu said he was sorry about the loss of life, but proud of the soldiers who he said acted in self defense.
"It is very clear to us that the attackers had prepared their violent action in advance," he said.
Netanyahu said Hamas is intent on smuggling weapons and if the blockade is broken, ships would be used to bring in arms, particularly missiles.
"If the blockade had been broken, it would have been followed by dozens, hundreds of boats," he said. "Each boat could carry dozens of missiles." That, he said, would put Jerusalem and Tel Aviv within reach of Hamas missile attacks.
"Under international law and common sense and decency, Israel has every right to interdict this weaponry," he said, saying Israel had already confiscated hundreds of tons of war material and weapons by Iran for shipment to Gaza.
"Israel simply cannot permit a free flow of weapons," he said. "Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few kilometers from Tel Aviv."
Israel also began deporting the hundreds of people it took into custody after capturing the six ships. buses carrying about 400 Turks departed this morning for Israel's international airport.
Activists from Muslim nations without diplomatic relations with Israel were deported by crossings into Jordan before dawn. The 124 activists were Moroccan, Jordanian, Mauritanian, Kuwaiti, Pakistani, Indonesian and Syrian nationals. About 300 other activists remain in prison in southern Israel, corrections department spokesman Yaron Zamir said in an Associated Press report.
The Israeli government decided Tuesday night that none of the activists detained after the Israeli commando raid on the flotilla would be prosecuted.
Israel has faced international condemnation since the clashes on the ships in international waters and increased calls to lift the blockade on Gaza.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said today that Israel should lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and has called the deadly raid on the pro-Palestinian aid flotilla "completely unacceptable."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the situation in Gaza "unsustainable and unacceptable."
"Israel's legitimate security needs must be met just as the Palestinians' legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured," she said in a statement Tuesday.