First, I admit, today is going to be a tough day for Israel defenders. I'm not going to come out guns blazing. I'm hoping to discuss this in a respectful, dignified manner. I also have no interest in celebrating the result of the raid. Deaths are always tragic in any context. I also have no interest in a flame war. I am going to keep my tone down and avoid angry rhetoric and I hope the rest of the thread will do the same.
Okay, now the way I see it. If the flotilla activists were truly interested merely in providing aid for the Gazans, then that would be commendable. But, Israel had offered to dock the ship and then allow the aid to pass through after inspection to ensure that there were no weapons.
Once that was refused, firstly, it showed that the point of the mission was not merely to provide aid, but to break the blockade. Secondly, it provided Israel with a choice:
1) end the blockade; or
2) intercept the ship.
There is no third way. You can't allow this one through and not the next one. Either you enforce the blockade or you don't. Whether this one actually contained weapons (and that is unclear at this point) is beside the point. The purpose of the blockade is to prevent weapons from getting to Gaza and once you allow ships through, your blockade becomes irrelevant. What's to stop the next ship from being loaded with weapons once it's established that they won't be intercepted?
Now, if you want to argue that the blockade should be ended, that's another matter. But given the blockade, Israel had no choice but to enforce it.
Next. It's unclear at this time of course, but many reports indicate that the violence was initiated by the activists. The mission of the commandos was to peacefully dock the ship in Israeli territory and submit it to inspection.
Turkey's NTV showed activists beating one Israeli soldier with sticks as he rappelled from a helicopter onto one of the boats. Several passengers appeared to be bleeding and wounded in a report shown on Turkish television.
An Israeli commando who spoke to reporters on a naval vessel off the coast, and who was identified only by the first letter of his name, "A," said he and his comrades were surprised by a group of Arabic-speaking men when they rapelled onto the deck.
He said some of the soldiers, taken off guard, were stripped of their helmets and equipment and thrown from the top deck to the lower deck, and that some had even jumped overboard to save themselves. At one point one of the passengers seized one of the soldiers' weapons and opened fire.
A high-ranking naval official displayed a box confiscated from the boat containing switchblades, slingshots, metal balls and metal bats. "We prepared (the soldiers) to deal with peace activists, not to fight," he said. Most of the 10 dead were Turkish, he added.
According to Israeli sources:
The IDF said that the ships would be taken to the Ashdod Port where, despite the violence, the cargo they hold will be inspected and then transferred to the Gaza Strip via land crossings. Israeli Navy commander Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom was commanding over the operation from sea.
This shows, assuming it's carried out, that the purpose of the blockade is to stop weapons from entering Gaza, not to stop aid to the people of Gaza.
Finally, the issue of the "civilians" on these ships. As far as I'm concerned, there were no civilians on these ships. Before setting out, every person aboard these ships knew that its purpose was to break the Israeli blockade. There were not bystanders. They were intentionally getting involved in an armed conflict. They knew exactly that they were trying or likely to provoke an armed conflict. All of them including the Nobel prize winner and the 85 year old Holocaust survivor, were seaborn soldiers intentionally becoming involved in a military conflict. They did or should reasonably have expected a violent confrontation. That doesn't mean that the deaths are not to be lamented or mourned; but it is not the same thing as a civilian death.
I will concede that if one starts with the principle that the blockade is illegal in the first place, the events take on a different light.
Oh, and regarding the fact that it was in international waters... Yes, perhaps they should have waited until the ship was in Israeli waters. But, let's face it... does it really matter? Everyone knew exactly where the ship was going. Would a few extra miles of sailing have made a substantive difference?