An aid flotilla carrying provisions and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists has intercepted by Israeli commandos in a pre-dawn raid in which at least ten were killed
Israel said the forces encountered unexpected resistance as they boarded the vessels. Dozens of passengers and at least five Israeli soldiers were wounded in the confrontation in international waters.
Israel's tough response triggered widespread condemnation across Europe; many of the passengers were from European countries. The raid also strained already tense relations with Israel's longtime Muslim ally Turkey, the unofficial sponsor of the mission, and drew more attention to the plight of Gaza's 1.5 million people.
Turkey announced it was withdrawing its ambassador to Israel, canceling three joint military drills and calling on the U.N. Security Council to convene in an emergency session about Israel. The Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Greece were summoned for meetings, and the French foreign minister called for an investigation.
The violent takeover also threatened to deal yet another blow to Israel's international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.
It occurred a day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the Middle East peace process.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned "the disproportionate use of force" against the flotilla.
"All light must be shed on the circumstances of this tragedy, which underlines the urgency of resuming peace talks," he said in a statement.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed regret for the deaths but blamed the violence on organizers of the flotilla, calling the effort a "political provocation" by anti-Israel forces.