Cabinet ministers argued that Israel should not allow the Turkish planes sent to retrieve those wounded in Monday's events, to do so.
"They were not injured during a picnic, but during a violent clash with IDF forces. They must be held for further interrogation and if need be – prosecuted," said one of the ministers.
Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser said following the meeting that the cabinet "determined that restricting the entry of ships to Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas terror organization, is a clear act of self-defense against the ongoing Hamas attacks on Israeli citizens and communities. This was the aim of the IDF operation against the violent provocation in high seas.
"The cabinet regrets the fact that there were casualties in this incident, but places the full responsibility on the elements which started the violent activity that put IDF soldiers in danger.
The National Security Cabinet convened at 5:30 pm, at the Prime Minister's Office. Netanyahu ordered the meeting prior to leaving Canada, where he was on a state visit, which he cut short once the events on board the Marmara unfolded.
"This was no peace sail, but a premeditated act of violence," Netanyahu told the ministers. "We have footage demonstrating exactly what our soldiers were facing, and the last thing you can say about that ship is that it was a peace sail.
"I visited soldiers at (the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at) Tel Hashomer and I heard how they faced terrorists with cold weapons – knives, clubs and axes - aboard that ship. Our soldiers acted bravely. We regret any loss of life – but we back our soldiers up fully.
The prime minister went on to explain to necessity of inspection of all maritime vessels heading to Gaza: "Operation Cast Lead taught us that weapons that find their way into Gaza are used against us."
Visiting the wounded. PM Netanyahu at Tel Hashomer (Photo: GPO)
"Yes, (Palestinians) smuggle arms through underground tunnels, but smuggling by sea mean utterly different volumes. Opening a maritime route to Gaza poses significant danger, which is why we insist on the blockade.
"We are aware of the international pressure in the respect, and that this policy is criticized, but it is imperative to Israel's security."
The cabinet is still in session and no details were given as to the ministers' demand.
'Erdogan out for more influence'
Meanwhile, the National Security Cabinet also the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey that ensued the maritime fiasco.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Jerusalem "not to try Ankara's patience" – a stance both political and intelligence sources believe is meant to escalate the already tense relations between the countries further.
Intelligence sources believe Erdogan aims to utilize the latest crisis to garner more influence in the Muslim world, by siding with the Palestinians at the expense of his ties with Israel.
"This is a line he has been pushing for years," the ministers were told.
The minister must address several serious questions regarding the Navy's takeover of the Marmara: Did the operation falter due to intelligence failures or operational ones? Were all the military alternatives explored? in the operation's setup? Were did Israeli PR efforts fail?
Other issues the minister must address are the escalating relations with Turkey, the necessary measures needed in order to stop the "Rachel Corrie" – another aid ship bound for Gaza, and what – if anything - can be done against the flotilla detainees that refuse to identify themselves.
Perhaps the most burning question though, is what, if anything, can be done to rectify the blow Israel suffered in worldwide public opinion.
"Where and internal investigation, or any other probe, is necessary is irrelevant at this time," said the source. "The cabinet will review everything and decide on its actions accordingly."