"Israel has the right to defend itself," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, in his first official reaction to Turkey's decision to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Israel, following the release of the UN's Palmer Report.
"We do not have to apologize for the fact that Naval Commandos defended themselves," Netanyahu said during Sunday's cabinet meeting.
More on the Israeli-Turkish diplomatic crisis:
- Turkey expels Israeli ambassador
- Turkey to challenge Gaza blockade at ICJ
- 'Turkey not interested in restoring ties'
- Hamas official: Palmer Report 'biased'
The UN's report, he said, proved what Israel already knew: "We have the full and basic right to defend ourselves from a violent IHH attack, and we don't have to apologize for trying to prevent arms smuggling to Hamas terrorists and for defending our citizens and our children.
"Just as IDF soldiers and commandos defend us, we will defend them – in any international forum," he added.
"Israel regrets any loss of life and I hope we can find a way to mend our relations with Turkey," Netanyahu said. "Israel never sought to see the situation deteriorate, nor do we wish it to remain like this."
The UN-commissioned report, which reviewed the events of the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, found that Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza is legal, but expressed concerns over what it called the IDF's "excessive use of force" during the raid, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens.
Turkey rejected the report's conclusions as biased and announced it was expelling the Israeli ambassador to Ankara and downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel to second-secretary level.
Ankara also announced it would be exploring its options against Israel with the International Court of Justice.
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