JERUSALEM, Israel - Forty armed al-Qaeda terrorists, equipped with bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles, executed a coordinated effort on the 'freedom' flotilla's Mavi Marmara to attack Israeli forces attempting to intercept the ship, Israeli military officials said Wednesday.
The terrorists attacked the soldiers with chains, metal pipes and stun grenades.
Military investigators believe the quasi-Turkish humanitarian relief fund, IHH, recruited most of the jihadists from Turkey, though a few hailed from Yemen and Indonesia. Investigators are tracing some detainees to previous terror attacks.
None of them carried any form of identity, and each had the same large amount of cash in an envelope.
Click here for the latest video footage of the attack.
Late Tuesday, the government approved the deportation of 124 detainees to Jordan where they will be sent to their home countries, which include Pakistan, Indonesia, Syria, Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan, and Mauritania.
"This was no peace flotilla, but a violent and planned force," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the security Cabinet on Wednesday.
"We have film and pictures that underscore what our soldiers faced, and the last thing that could possibly be said about that ship is that it was a peace ship," he said.
Wounded soldiers who Netanyahu visited earlier in the day explained to him what awaited them on deck.
"Our soldiers acted against them with equanimity and heroism. We regret the loss of life, but give full backing to the soldiers and to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] regarding this action," he said.
Netanyahu said Israel will not lift the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Click here to read an analysis of the Gaza blockade by Shmuel Rosner.
"Opening a sea route to Gaza would constitute a great danger to the security of our citizens. Therefore we persist with a naval blockade and check the ships. There is no possibility of maintaining this policy without checking ships' cargoes," he said.
Despite international pressure and criticism, the policy is based on "Israel's right to defend itself," he said.
Meanwhile, at an emergency meeting of the 47-member UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Tuesday, called by a coalition of Arab and Islamic states, Israeli Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar said Israel acted within provisions of international law.
"The attack on Israeli soldiers was beyond all doubt premeditated," he said. "The weapons used had been prepared in advance. They were not on a humanitarian mission, but one of provocation and incitement. Israeli forces had no choice but to defend themselves," Yaar said.
The Turkish-based IHH, which organized the flotilla, "has publicly professed connections to Egypt's Islamic Brotherhood and Hamas and has been a central actor of fundraising for Hamas around the world," Yaar said.
The council is expected to issue a joint resolution Wednesday condemning Israel and calling for an independent inquiry of "the attack," which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "deserves every kind of curse."