The political echelon in Jerusalem decided to return the boats in a bid to prevent a further deterioration of the crisis with Ankara. The decision was made following negotiations between the two countries, after Israel demanded that the vessels would not take part in future sails to Gaza.
"This was something Israel had to do anyway. There were certain steps Israel needed to take, and this was one of them," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying in Vietnam by state-run Anatolian news agency.
"We hope the other necessary steps will be taken," he said.
The Turkish-owned Marmara ship, which led the flotilla, and additional vessels were led to Israel's ports after a deadly Navy raid left nine Turkish nationals killed.
After the incident, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav suggested turning the Marmara into a tourist attraction – a floating hotel off the northern city's coast, but the idea was shelved.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Friday that a local journalist and two Spanish peace activists who were oboard the Marmara during the raid planned to file a civil claim against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, six of his cabinet ministers and Navy Commander Eliezer Marom, according to .
The activists say in the statement of claim that "the entire operation was well planned by the Israeli army in order to kill as many activists as possible, while they were only trying to help Gaza's residents."
The Foreign Ministry said in response that the lawsuit was "a continuation of the provocation in other means."
According to a statement issued Friday morning, "Israel's actions are legal and in accordance with international law. Just like the flotilla organizers did not have humanitarian aid in mind, but only used it as an excuse for provocation and violence, the people filing the lawsuit are not really interested in law and justice, but are using them as a tool against Israel. The appointed commission of inquiry must be given the chance to do its work uninterrupted."
Meanwhile, Israel is urging Lebanon and the international community to prevent two other ships from sailing to Gaza from a Lebanese port to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory. The Jewish state warned that the vessels will be stopped.
Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev on Thursday night accused organizers of the aid ships Junia and Julia of seeking "to incite a confrontation and raise tensions in our region."
Reuters contributed to the report
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