An emergency meeting of the UN Security has been held amid mass protests and international condemnation after Israel’s deadly attack on an international aid convoy.
Britain joined other countries in denouncing the dawn raid as “deplorable” with Palestinian leaders describing the bloodshed as a “massacre”.
There are international calls for a full, impartial investigation after Israeli commandos killed at
least nine activists on board a Turkish ship leading the six-ship
Following a 90-minute open meeting in New York, the UN Security has gone into closed-door consultations.
Exchanges between Turkish and Israeli representatives were held in the strongest possible terms.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet , called the raid “banditry and piracy” and “murder conducted by a state”.
But Israel’s deputy UN ambassador Daniel Carmon responded: “This flotilla was anything but a humanitarian mission.
“They are not peace activists … They cynically use the guise of humanitarian aid to send a message of hate and to implement violence.”
Envoys are now understood to be negotiating a proposed statement over the necessary action over the attack on the Mavi Marmara, which was leading the ships taking supplies to the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The incident has sparked a diplomatic crisis, while tens of thousands of people rallied across the world in furious protest.
Israeli flags were burned as 10,000 marched through the streets of Istanbul, as the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip , accused Israel of committing “inhuman state terror”.
His administration successfully appealed to Nato to hold emergency talks on Tuesday to discuss the raid.
But his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, defended the attack and gave his “full backing” to the military force.
In a press conference, he said the deaths incurred were “regrettable” but insisted his soldiers had been defending themselves.
Israeli officials said soldiers had dropped down ropes from helicopters and opened fire after activists attacked them with iron bars, axes and knives.
But a reporter on the boat – which is understood to be docked in the Israeli port of Ashdod – said the commandos had begun shooting before landing on the vessel.
And an Al-Jazeera correspondent said the Israeli soldiers continued shooting even though a white flag of surrender had been raised.
Briefing the UN Security Council in New York, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs challenged the death toll figures given by Israel Defence Forces.
Oscar Fernandez-Taranco said: “According to latest information, at least 10 people were killed and at least 30 injured, while at least six Israel military personnel were injured.”
Earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he “deplored the loss of life”, as mass demonstrations outside Downing Street in central London brought Whitehall to a standstill.
The protesters then moved on to occupy the area outside the Israeli Embassy in West Kensington.
Similar scenes occurred in Dublin and Paris, with 1,200 taking to the streets of the French capital, while 3,500 rallied in Athens.
Twenty eight Britons and a number of Greeks, Swedish and Irish are understood to have been among the 700 aboard the flotilla, which was 80 miles off Gaza at the time of the raid.
Mr Hague later told Sky News one Briton is understood to have been among those injured in the raid, but there are no known British deaths.
We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri
He said the Government had requested full consular access to Israel for greater clarity.
The raid was widely condemned by the international community, with France, Sweden, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Turkey among countries denouncing Israel.
The US reacted more cautiously and appealed for more information on the incident.
The White House confirmed Barack Obama had told Mr Netanyahu of his “deep regret” at the loss of life in a phone call.
A statement confirmed the US President “expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible” during the exchange.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon earlier said he was “shocked” by the seriousness of the raid and demanded a full investigation.
The EU also collectively-condemned the raid and called for a “full impartial inquiry” into the incident.
The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the deaths as a “massacre”.
Hamas meanwhile urged Arabs and Muslims to “rise up” in front of Israeli embassies across the globe in protest.
“We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced the attack as “inhuman”, saying it brought Tehran’s arch-foe “closer than ever to its end”.
Israel’s Arab community called a general strike and hundreds of people from across the political spectrum flooded onto the streets of Nazareth to protest.
Sky’s Middle East correspondent Dominic Waghorn said: “There already was much debate in Israel about the wisdom of blocking this flotilla from a PR point of view.
“But whatever the legalities storming an aid armada with commandos was never going to look good for Israel.”
The flotilla, which was carrying about 10,000 tonnes of aid, had been warned by Israel not to pass a sea blockade.
The activists were headed to Gaza on a mission designed to draw attention to a three-year-old Israeli blockade of the coastal territory.