Washington: The UN Security Council on Tuesday morning condemned and regretted the loss of lives in the pre-dawn raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla by Israeli forces.
The Council further called for an impartial probe into the naval operation that left nine people dead and sparked world outcry.
In a statement, the UNSC said the inquiry should be "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent".
The UNSC further requested the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel, said the BBC.
After an emergency meeting and marathon negotiations, the 15 council members agreed early Tuesday on a presidential statement that was weaker than that initially demanded by the Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey.
They had called for condemnation of the attack by Israeli forces "in the strongest terms" and "an independent international investigation."
This is tantamount to banditry and piracy," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had told the council. "It is murder conducted by a state." Most of those who died in the incident were Turks, according to one senior Israeli officer.
Israel processes Gaza activists
The Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that 50 activists had been taken to Ben-Gurion Airport for voluntary repatriation. Around 629 had refused, and would be jailed while Israel weighed legal options. Some 30 were in hospitals with injuries.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said police were gathering evidence to prosecute activists who had set upon the marines with fists, batons, knives and gunfire.
"All those who lifted a hand against a soldier will be punished to the full extent of the law," he told Israel Radio.
Some 700 activists, many Turks but including Israelis and Palestinians as well as Americans and many Europeans -- among them politicians, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and Swedish author -- were processed in and around Israel`s port of Ashdod, where the six ships of the blockade-running convoy had been escorted.
They were detained incommunicado, ensuring no contradiction of Israel`s version of Monday`s events. The military said the nine activists were killed when commandos, who stormed aboard a Turkish cruise ship from dinghies and helicopters, opened fire in what Netanyahu said was self-defence.
New boats to Gaza
Organisers of the Gaza aid flotilla that was the target of a deadly Israeli naval raid say they`re sending two more ships to the area within the next few days.
Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement says a cargo boat is already on the way to challenge Israel`s blockade of the Gaza Strip. She says a second boat carrying about three dozen passengers is expected to join it.
Meanwhile, Israel`s Navy said it was braced to intercept another aid ship, MV Rachel Corrie, that could reach Gazan waters later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.
European nations, as well as the United Nations and Turkey, voiced shock and outrage at the bloody end to the international campaigners` bid to break Israel`s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Once-close Muslim ally Turkey accused Israel of "terrorism" in international waters.
Many Security Council members criticised the Israeli action with degrees of vehemence, and said it was time for Israel`s three-year-old blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza to be lifted.
The European Union, a key aid donor to Palestinians, demanded an inquiry and an end to the embargo.
Israel`s most powerful friend, the United States, was more cautious -- disappointing Turkey. President Barack Obama said he wanted the full facts soon and regretted the loss of life.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by phone with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who provided "some initial details" of the incident, her spokesman, PJ Crowley, said.
"Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region," Crowley said later in a statement.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to "respond constructively to legitimate criticism" of its storming of an aid ship bound for Gaza.
Cameron told Netanyahu in a telephone conversation yesterday that Britain "deplored the heavy loss of life".
"He reiterated the UK`s strong commitment to Israel`s security, but urged Israel to respond constructively to legitimate criticism of its actions, and to do everything possible to avoid a repeat of this unacceptable situation," a spokesman for Cameron said.
"The PM also stressed the importance of urgently lifting the blockade of Gaza, and allowing full access for humanitarian aid."
Earlier yesterday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for a "full, and impartial and independent investigation or inquiry" into yesterday`s events off the coast of Gaza.
Tens of thousands of Turks took to the streets, some shouting "Damn Israel!" and demanding "A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, revenge, revenge!"
About 1,200 people joined a noisy protest in Paris yesterday against Israel`s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, and further demonstrations were planned for the weekend.
Demonstrators rallied near the Israeli embassy waving Palestinian flags and shouting slogans such as "Palestine will survive, Palestine will conquer", while some voiced support for the Hamas movement that governs the blockaded Gaza strip.
Around a hundred protestors threw stones at officers and tried to break police barriers surrounding the Israeli embassy.
(With Agencies’ inputs)