A diplomatic furore took shape after the Israeli army attacked in international waters a convoy of six ships carrying humanitarian assistance to Palestinians living on the Gaza Strip.
The fleet, which was also carrying around 700 pro-Palestinian activists, defied the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has lasted since 2007 and has been condemned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and top EU politicians.
The activists left Cyprus on Sunday and were due to arrive on the Gaza Strip today.
Apparently, Israel sustains that its navy, which was trying to prevent the ships from reaching land, had been provoked by the activists.
Yochanan Plessner, a member of the Israeli parliament and a former navy commando himself, says that the moment Israeli commandos boarded the boat they were attacked by spikes, metal rods and live ammunition, the BBC reported.
Israeli Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel's Army Radio: "I can also understand [...] how soldiers are coming down and are set upon with batons and tools."
"The moment someone tries to snatch your weapon, to steal your weapons, that's where you begin to lose control," the minister said.
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek called the attack "unjustified" and requested Israel to "explain its actions immediately".
He also urged High Representative Catherine Ashton to take steps with the Middle East Quartet (the EU, USA, the UN and Russia) to force Israel to lift "the siege on the people of Gaza [...] immediately and unconditionally".
"The European Parliament has always strongly condemned the continued policy of closure with respect to the Gaza Strip, seeing it as unacceptable and counterproductive," Buzek stressed.
Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, "deeply regrets the loss of life as a result of the Israeli military operation against the flotilla sailing to Gaza [and] is requesting a full and immediate inquiry by the Israeli authorities," a European Commission spokesman said.
The blockade is "unacceptable and politically counterproductive" and the EU "strongly condemns any acts of violence and deplores any excessive use of force," Ashton said.
An international investigation would be "something I think we could welcome," the Commission spokesman said.
The bloodshed is expected to hurt Israel's diplomatic relations, especially with Turkey. The flotilla was organised, among others, by a Turkish human rights organisation. Turkey had urged Israel to allow it safe passage and said the 10,000 tonnes of aid the convoy was carrying was humanitarian. Several Turkish flags were visible on the boats, according to TV footage.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry warned Israel of irreparable damage to bilateral ties.
"This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations," a statement reads.
Minutes later, thousands of Turkish protesters marched in Istanbul to denounce Israel, and the media reported that Ankara had recalled its ambassador to Israel.
Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is in Chile on a Latin American tour, cut short his visit and is due to return home on Tuesday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said today.