JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will not apologize for its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip nor for its soldiers' action aboard the Turkish-owned flotilla flagship, Mavi Marmara in May 2010.
"We need not apologize for the fact that naval commandos defended their lives against an assault by violent IHH activists," Netanyahu told ministers at the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting.
IHH (Insani Yardim Vafki) is a Turkish "relief" organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
"We need not apologize for the fact that we acted to stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas, a terrorist organization that has already fired over 10,000 missiles, rockets and mortar rounds at our civilians.
"We need not apologize for the fact that we acted to defend our people, our children and our communities," he said.
"To the naval commandoes, I would like to say that just as you and the rest of the IDF defend us, we will defend you everywhere and in every forum," Netanyahu said.
Responding to Turkey's threats to downgrade diplomatic, trade and military ties with Israel and take the case to the international court, Netanyahu reiterated its "regret over the loss of life" and said he hoped a "way will be found to overcome the disagreement with Turkey."
"Israel has never wanted a deterioration in its relations with Turkey; neither is Israel interested in such a deterioration now," he said.
In its response to the U.N.'s Palmer Commission Report issued over the weekend, the Prime Minister's Office said Israel's ambassador to Turkey had "concluded his term earlier this week and...already bid farewell to his Turkish colleagues."
Earlier Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the press his country was expelling Israel's ambassador, downgrading diplomatic, trade and military ties, saying it is "time Israel pays a price."
Click here to read the PMO's full response to the Palmer Report.