Israeli naval commandos storm pro-Palestinian flotilla; killing 9

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Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.

Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
Dozens of activists and six Israeli soldiers were wounded in the bloody predawn confrontation in international waters.
The violent takeover dealt yet another blow to Israel's international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its three-year-old blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu cancelled a much-anticipated meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday in a sign of just how gravely Israel viewed the international uproar.
In Canada, Netanyahu announced he was rushing home.
Israel said it opened fire after its commandos were attacked by knives, clubs and live fire from two pistols wrested from soldiers after they rappelled from a helicopter to board one of the vessels.
Late on Monday, it released a grainy black-and-white video that it said supported its version of events.
The video shows what the IDF claim to be Israeli commandos being beaten up by activists, as well as weapons found aboard the ship.
AP have no way of independently verifying the footage.
In a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel's military chief of staff and navy commander said the troops were able to take over five other boats without incident and all of the violence was centered on the Mavi Marmara.
The Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the lead boat of the aid flotilla, sailed into the Israeli port of Ashdod later on Monday.
International reaction to the incident has been swift and harsh, with a massive protest breaking out in Turkey, Israel's longtime Muslim ally, which unofficially supported the mission.
Ankara announced it would recall its ambassador and call off military exercises with the Jewish state.
The bloody showdown came at a sensitive time in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The activists were headed to Gaza on a mission meant to draw attention to the blockade, which Israel and Egypt imposed after Hamas seized the territory of 1.5 (m) million Palestinians in 2007.
There were conflicting accounts of what happened early on Monday, with activists claiming the Israelis fired first and Israel insisting its forces fired in self defence. Communications to the ships were cut off shortly after the raid began.
An Israeli commando who spoke to reporters on a naval vessel off the coast, and who was identified only by the first letter of his name, "A," said he and his comrades were surprised by a group of Arabic-speaking men when they rappelled onto the deck. He said some of the soldiers, taken off guard, were stripped of their helmets and equipment and thrown from the top deck to the lower deck, and that some had even jumped overboard to save themselves.
At one point one of the passengers seized one of the soldiers' weapons and opened fire, the commando said. Activists said Israeli naval commandos stormed the ships after ordering them to stop in international waters, about 80 miles (130 kilometres) from Gaza's coast. An Al-Jazeera reporter on one of the Turkish ships said the Israelis fired at the vessel before boarding it.
The pan-Arab satellite channel reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli navy forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain.
The wounded were evacuated by helicopter to Israeli hospitals, officials said.
Israeli police say 16 pro-Palestinian activists from a Gaza-bound flotilla have been sent to jail so far.
An injured Greek activist was arrested by Israeli military police in southern Israel on Monday, after being treated in hospital.
As he was led away, he told reporters his ship had been in international waters.
Israel has said it will deport the roughly 700 activists in the flotilla.
But those who refuse to cooperate will be jailed.
About 80 activists have been brought to shore so far.

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