"Israel, like any other country, has the legitimate right to defend its citizens and soldiers," they stressed. "The State of Israel hopes a way will be found to overcome the disagreements, and will continue to work to achieve this goal."
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The sources said that during the raid, Israeli soldiers boarded the Marmara ship without any lethal weapons. "The soldiers on board had no intention of hurting anyone," they said. "Once the soldiers were attacked brutally by dozens of violent IHH activists, armed with clubs, knives and steel tubes, the troops were forced to defend themselves."
As for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara, the sources said that diplomat Gabby Levy had ended his term several days ago, already bid farewell to his Turkish colleagues and was expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days. They failed to address the fact that Israel would have to appoint a new ambassador to Turkey in the future.
Meanwhile, a senior cabinet minister told Ynet that "the recent crisis with Turkey is the result of a policy which led to deterioration. We shouldn't have apologized, but severing ties with Turkey will have a long-term impact. We have a real problem here."
He noted that the "Jordanians, Egyptians, Turks, Mauritania have all disappeared from here," calling the situation "a critical blow to the relations of Israel and the Arab and Muslim world."
'It's time for Israel to pay the price.' Turkish FM Davutoglu (Photo: Reuters)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak held consultations following the Turkish announcement. They met with Foreign Ministry Director-General Rafael Barak, who later held an evaluation of the situation in light of the deterioration. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is currently in Moldova.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on Friday that following Jerusalem's adamant refusal to apologize over the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, Ankara will be downgrading its diplomatic relations with Israel and suspending key military agreements
The announcement followed a press conference, in which Davutoglu said that some of the UN's Palmer Report findings on the raid were "unacceptable," adding that it was "time for Israel to pay the price... The highest price it can pay is losing our friendship."
Palmer Report 'invalid'. Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv (Photo: AFP)
"Today, we reached a point where Israel has, in fact, spent all of the chances that were given to them. The Israeli government, on the other hand, see themselves (as being) above international laws and human conscience," the Turkish FM said.
Turkey withdrew its own ambassador to Israel immediately after last year's raid.
Davutoglu stated that Ankara views the Israeli government as responsible for the situation, and that Turkey will not revise its position on the matter until Israel reconsiders its stand on the flotilla incident. Davutoğlu added that despite the Palmer Report findings, Turkey does not recognize the legality of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul reportedly said Friday that as far as Turkey was concerned, the Palmer Report was "null and void." Ankara is also said to be exploring its options against Israel with the International Court of Justice.
The publication of the Palmer Report was delayed for many weeks. It will be submitted to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday, but was leaked and published on the New York Times on Thursday.
The Turkish foreign minister accused Israel of leaking the report, accusing the Jewish state of "irresponsible behavior".
Meanwhile Friday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed Turkey's decision to expel the Israeli ambassador, calling it "a fit response to the crimes against the international flotilla that tried to breach the siege." Hamas also slammed the Palmer Report as "unfair and unjust."
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