Defending Israel’s enforcement of its Gaza blockade, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday it was vital for the country’s security and would stay in place.

 

In a televised address after world outrage erupted over nine deaths in Monday’s seizure of a Turkish ship bound for Gaza, a defiant Netanyahu said easing controls would put long-range Iranian missiles into the hands of the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers.

 

This threatened not just Israel but Europe too, he said.

 

Turkey, a Muslim country that had been Israel’s strategic ally, accused it of “state terrorism” and has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and demanded it lift its blockade.

 

Those calls have been echoed by European leaders and the United Nations, who also want an inquiry into the incident.


“Once again, Israel faces hypocrisy and a biased rush to judgment,” Netanyahu said of his international critics, as he defended the actions of Israeli marines who, he said, fired in self-defense after boarding Turkish cruise liner Mavi Marmara.


Israel said it was deporting all 682 activists from more than 35 countries detained after the assault in international waters on the six ships it commandeered. All but nine wounded prisoners were expected to be gone by the end of the day.