Israel Will Not Apologize for Flotilla Raid

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Israel will not apologize for its deadly 2010 raid on a Turkish-led flotilla of Gaza aid ships, an Israeli diplomatic source said Friday after a U.N. report accused the Jewish state of using excessive force.

"Israel once again expresses its regrets for the loss of human life but there will be no apology for this operation," the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The boarding of the Gaza-bound ships by Israeli special forces, which left nine Turkish activists dead and plunged ties with Ankara into a deep crisis, was criticized in a U.N. report leaked on Thursday.

The long-awaited report said Israel used excessive force during the raid, launched without warning in international waters, but endorsed the legality of the Jewish state's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli official said the Jewish state considered the U.N. report "a professional, serious and profound document" but stressed that the Israeli government would not apologize for the actions of its troops.

"Israel, like every other country, has the legitimate right to defend its citizens and its soldiers," he said.

"Israel recognizes the historic importance of relations with the Turkish people and has made attempts to maintain them and hopes that a way will be found to overcome the differences."

The long-awaited report is expected to be published soon after being delayed several times as Israel and Turkey sought a compromise that would allow them to repair once-warm ties.

But any possibility of healing the rift was dashed Friday when Turkey said it was expelling Israel's ambassador to Ankara and suspending military agreements.

Ankara had called on Israel to apologize for the deaths, compensate the families of victims and lift its blockade on Gaza, terms all rejected by the Jewish state.

Israel had not ruled out compensation but flatly refused to apologize.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his nation rejected the report, regarding it as "null and void", and Ankara warned that it intended to take its protest about the blockade to The International Court of Justice in The Hague.

A senior Israeli official said earlier Friday, "We will announce our acceptance of the report after its official publication, with specific reservations."

The official stressed that the report had declared legal Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian territory.

"The report demonstrates that the naval blockade and its implementation conforms with international law," he said.

Israel's reservations were expected to deal with the criticism that Israeli troops used excessive and unreasonable force when boarding the ferry Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010.

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