JERUSALEM (JTA) — Nine activists on board a flotilla of ships bound for Gaza were killed during rioting after Israeli naval forces boarded the ships to redirect them to an Israeli port.
Israel’s Navy intercepted six of the ships early Monday morning as they attempted to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel had radioed to the ships numerous times, requesting that they head to the port in Ashdod, where they could unload their aid material to be transferred to Gaza after security inspections, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
When naval forces boarded the largest ship, the Marmara, run by IHH, a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation, they were attacked with metal clubs and knives, as well as live fire, according to the IDF.
"The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose," the statement said, adding that the Navy then used riot dispersal methods, which include live fire.
"The forces operated in adherence with operational commands and took all necessary actions in order to avoid violence, but to no avail," the IDF statement said.
In addition to the reported dead protesters, at least 36 protesters were injured and evacuated to Israeli hospitals. Seven Israeli soldiers were injured, two were serious condition, but were later downgraded to moderate.
Israeli ministers decided last week not to allow the ships to reach Gaza.