Israeli commandos storm a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships, reporting that more than 10 of the activists aboard were killed in a confrontation which Israel says began when the commandos were assaulted with guns and knives.
The Israeli military says over 10 people are dead after Israeli naval commandos boarded a flotilla of ships sailing towards the Gaza strip with aid, and pro-Palestinian activists aboard.
The convoy of six ships set sail from international waters off Cyprus on Sunday, in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade on the territory, and despite warnings it would be intercepted.
UNNAMED ISRAELI NAVY SAILOR
"You are approaching an area of hostilities, which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza area coastal region and Gaza harbour are closed to all maritime traffic."
The flotilla was organised by pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish human rights organisation, who oppose the blockade.
Following the bloodshed, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Istanbul and Ankara, to protest the military operation.
Turkey, which had urged Israel to allow the flotilla safe passage, has called the move unacceptable, warning Israel in a statement it would have to endure the consequences of its behaviour.
In Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on the international community to take action.
SOUNDBITE: (Arabic) FORMER PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER, HAMAS LEADER ISMAIL HANIYEH SAYING:
"The occupation decided to carry out this piracy and to go beyond all the norms and laws of humanity. This is maybe not a surprise to us as a Palestinian people since we know the occupation and its crimes."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel did not want a violent confrontation.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN MARK REGEV SAYING:
"We did not want to see a confrontation. On the contrary, we made repeated offers that they should bring their the boats to the port of Ashdod and from there we guaranteed that all humanitarian cargo will be transferred to the people of Gaza. Unfortunately this group decided on confrontation, they decided on violence and when our navy had to intercept, our young serviceman were attacked with live ammunition, they were shot at, with knives and clubs."
The United Nations and Western powers have urged Israel to ease the restrictions, which it says are necessary to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas.
Kirsty Basset, Reuters.