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Israel blames Gaza flotilla deaths on activists

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Israel put the blame for the violence on the activists, saying its naval troops were attacked with knives, clubs, and gunfire when they boarded some of the ships, and were forced to defend themselves, reports AFP.

"They initiated the violence," [Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,] told AFP. "We made every possible effort to avoid this incident. The servicemen were given instructions that it was to be a police operation and to use maximum restraint."

The Los Angeles Times reports that an Israeli military spokesman said activists grabbed a soldier’s weapon and began using it to fire on the boarding naval forces. But the activists tell a different story, according to the Times.

A flotilla spokeswoman, Greta Berlin, told Israel Radio that the confrontation was broadcast live from a Turkish boat participating in the flotilla. The footage, she said, clearly showed Israeli soldiers landing on the deck and opening fire on civilians.

"The minute their feet hit the deck, they started to shoot," Berlin said.

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