Toronto: Defending Israeli commandos who launched a deadly raid on a flotilla of humanitarian ships destined for Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said the soldiers acted in self-defence.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Army also released footage of the resistance put up by pro-Palestinian activists as commandos stormed the aid ship.
At least 20 people were killed and dozens wounded in the pre-dawn raid yesterday on a flotilla carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists and humanitarian aid to blockaded Gaza strip.
Netanyahu said the Israeli soldiers had boarded one of the flotilla's six ships to check it for weapons when they were attacked by activists with knives and clubs.
"They literally attacked the first soldiers on the ship, they were mobbed," Netanyahu said in Ottawa, where he held a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"They were clubbed, they were beaten, stabbed, there was even a report of gunfire."
Netanyahu, who began a two-day official visit to Canada on Sunday, cut short his visit and left Ottawa on his way back home following the crisis.
He also rescheduled a meeting with US President Barack Obama scheduled for Tuesday in Washington, officials said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement yesterday regretting the deaths and injuries following the raid but said more information is needed to shed light on what happened.
In a bid to defend the raid, the Israeli Army has released footage of the resistance put up by pro-Palestinian activists as commandos stormed the aid ship headed to Gaza.
Video images showed troops rappelling down to the deck of one of the vessels in the aid flotilla and coming under repeated attack by a group of people waving poles and chairs.
As a black-clad figure climbs down a rope from a chopper, someone on deck lobs a projectile at him and a group of baton-wielding passengers converge on him as he drops to the ground in chaotic scenes in which it appears that the passengers had the upper hand.
In the black-and-white footage, which appears to have been shot from a nearby vessel, at least six passengers can be seen on the deck of the vessel, repeatedly raising their sticks and forcefully hitting something or someone out of shot on the ground.
As the scenes of violence unfold, soldiers watching the operation from the nearby ship can be heard speaking in Hebrew. "They're really beating them badly," one says.
Among the crowd of at least 20 or so passengers milling around on the deck, at least two can be seen pushing one of the Israeli commandos over the railing onto a lower deck, pulling some kind of kit off his back as he falls.
"Wow, they've thrown a fighter over the edge," another voice says. "They've just shoved him over."
Another demonstrator can be seen waving a white chair over his head in the melee, which also shows one commando pointing what appears to be a paint-ball gun at the passengers.
First Published: Tuesday, June 01, 2010, 08:54