More than 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed during a raid by naval commandos halting an aid flotilla heading toward the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said Monday.
An official said the soldiers were attacked with knives and clubs as they boarded the six vessels.
The Israeli military said the violence turned deadly after one of the activists grabbed a weapon from one of the commandos. The weapon discharged, though it wasn't clear whether the activist fired it or if it went off accidentally.
Al-Jazeera TV reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain. The broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, "Everybody shut up!"
Turkey's NTV network reported that at least 30 activists were wounded.
Some 700 pro-Palestinian activists are on the boats, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the incident as a "massacre," the official Wafa news agency reported.
The raid came just after daybreak, with the flotilla still well away from the Gaza shore. Israel had declared it would not allow the ships to reach Gaza.
In Istanbul, Turkey, police blocked dozens of stone-throwing protesters who tried to storm the Israeli Consulate.
The UK reports indicate that the death toll is at least 16.
The Israeli ambassador to Turkey, the base of one of the human rights organisation which organised the flotilla, was summoned by the foreign ministry in Anakara, as the Israeli consulate in Istanbul came under attack.
One Israeli minister issued immediate words of regret. "The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities," Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade and industry minister, told army radio.
But he added that the commandoes had been attacked with batons and activists had sought to take their weapons off them.
Israeli military sources said four of its men had been injured, one stabbed, and that they had been shot at.
"The flotilla's participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces' arrival," they were quoted by a news website as saying.
As you can see in the CNN portion of the above video, the real casualty of this affair may be Turkish-Israeli relations, which have played a critical role in maintaining the balance of power in the Middle East.