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<h1 class="articleHeadline"><NYT_HEADLINE version="1.0" type=" ">Netanyahu Offers Defense of Israel’s Gaza Blockade</NYT_HEADLINE></h1>
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<p class="caption">Detained activists from the Gaza-bound flotilla gestured as their bus arrived at Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv from a prison in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on Tuesday as they were deported to their home countries. </p>
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<NYT_BYLINE > <h6 class="byline">By ISABEL KERSHNER and <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/t/sabrina_tavernise/index.html?inline=nyt-per" title="More Articles by Sabrina Tavernise" class="meta-per">SABRINA TAVERNISE</a></h6>
</NYT_BYLINE> <h6 class="dateline">Published: June 2, 2010</h6>
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JERUSALEM &mdash; Prime Minister <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/n/benjamin_netanyahu/index.html?inline=nyt-per" title="More articles about Benjamin Netanyahu." class="meta-per">Benjamin Netanyahu</a> mounted a vigorous public defense of <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/israel/index.html?inline=nyt-geo" title="More news and information about Israel." class="meta-loc">Israel</a>&rsquo;s blockade of <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/gaza_strip/index.html?inline=nyt-geo" title="More news and information about the Gaza Strip." class="meta-loc">Gaza</a> on Wednesday, rejecting international criticism of a deadly Israeli attack on a flotilla of activists who had been trying to carry aid to Gaza. </p>
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Rethinking the Gaza Blockade</a></h3>
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Is there a way to prevent attacks against Israel while providing humanitarian relief to the Palestinians?</p>
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<li><img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/section/opinion/comment_icon.gif" alt="Comment" width="9" height="11" border="0"> <a href="http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/rethinking-the-gaza-blockade/">Join the Discussion </a></li>
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<h6 class="credit">The New York Times</h6>
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<p>
In his first nationally broadcast comments on the raid, Mr. Netanyahu accused Israel&rsquo;s critics of hypocrisy and said the blockade of the <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/hamas/index.html?inline=nyt-org" title="More articles about Hamas." class="meta-org">Hamas</a>-controlled territory of Gaza was necessary to prevent rockets and missiles from being smuggled to militants. </p><p>
&ldquo;It is our duty and our responsibility according to international law and common sense to prevent by air, sea and land the smuggling of weapons into Gaza,&rdquo; Mr. Netanyahu said, according to a translation of his remarks broadcast on Israeli radio. He added: &ldquo;This was no Love Boat.&rdquo; </p><p>
Israel has faced growing pressure from other countries and the <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/united_nations/index.html?inline=nyt-org" title="More articles about the United Nations." class="meta-org">United Nations</a> to lift the blockade of Gaza in the wake of Monday&rsquo;s assault by Israeli commandos, which ended with nine activists dead and hundreds more taken into Israeli custody. </p><p>
On Wednesday, Israel moved to deport those activists by bus and airplane, opting to release them all, including those it suspected of having taken part in attacks on soldiers who boarded the floating convoy. </p><p>
A Turkish government official said two Turkish planes had been filled with passengers from the boats and a third was being loaded. </p><p>
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the process, said it had dragged on because of conflicting tallies of those who were on the ships and problems identifying the dead. </p><p>
Wounded passengers bound for Turkey will be taken to Ankara, the capital, while the rest will be taken to Istanbul. The deportation of about 410 activists to Turkey hit a snag earlier Wednesday as officials waited for Israel&rsquo;s high court to rule on whether the detainees could be released without facing criminal charges. </p><p>
Turkey, which harshly condemned Israel for Monday&rsquo;s botched raid on the convoy of ships, threatened to sever diplomatic relations with Israel if it failed to release all of the Turkish passengers by the end of the day. </p><p>
Arthur Lenk, a lawyer at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said that Israel believed it had legal grounds to prosecute some of the protesters who clashed with Israeli soldiers during the raid, but that Israel had also weighed the likely diplomatic and political consequences. On balance, he said, the authorities concluded it was in the country&rsquo;s best interests to deport them. </p><p>
And in a letter submitted to the court earlier Wednesday, Yehuda Weinstein, Israel&rsquo;s attorney general, said that Israel&rsquo;s senior political echelon had recommended allowing the immediate expulsion &ldquo;of all the foreigners who had arrived on the flotilla suspected of having carried out criminal acts.&rdquo; </p><p>
The decision, he wrote, was based on &ldquo;clear diplomatic interests touching on the state of Israel&rsquo;s foreign relations and national security.&rdquo; </p><p>
Scores of the more than 600 people detained after Monday&rsquo;s raid crossed by bus into Jordan, where they provided fresh accounts of the confrontation aboard the Turkish vessel in international waters that touched off a diplomatic maelstrom for Israel with the nine civilians&rsquo; deaths. </p><p>
Activists said the Israeli commandos threw tear-gas canisters onto the deck of the ship, the Mavi Marmara, before descending from a helicopter. The Israeli government has said that its troops were attacked by passengers wielding knives and clubs, and that the commandos fired only in self-defense. </p><p>
After the Israeli military secured the ship, activists said, they were searched several times and put in restraints for 8 to 12 hours as the ship was taken to the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod. One passenger, Basheer el-Zameely, said that people who were detained went hours without food or water and were treated &ldquo;in a humiliating way,&rdquo; but he added that some had refused to drink water once it was offered because the bottles&rsquo; labels were in Hebrew. </p><p>
Thirty Jordanians were among the 126 deportees from a dozen Muslim countries who crossed into Jordan; many of the other deportees&rsquo; nations have no diplomatic relations with Israel. Sabine Haddad, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Interior Ministry, said that 325 people had been taken to Ben-Gurion airport to await flights to Turkey and that an additional 76 were on their way there. Israel hoped to complete the expulsions on Wednesday of all those captured, she said. </p><p>
The expulsions coincided with continued international pressure on Israel to ease its blockade one day after the <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/s/security_council/index.html?inline=nyt-org" title="More articles about Security Council, U.N." class="meta-org">United Nations Security Council</a> said restriction on access to Gaza was &ldquo;not sustainable.&rdquo; In Britain, home to around 40 of the captured activists, Deputy Prime Minister <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/nick_clegg/index.html?inline=nyt-per" title="More articles about Nick Clegg." class="meta-per">Nick Clegg</a> said Wednesday that the Gaza blockade was &ldquo;unjustifiable and untenable&rdquo; and called for it to be lifted. </p><p>
The United Nations Human Rights Council said it would send a fact-finding mission to investigate the attack. </p><p>
The confrontation prompted Egypt to open a border checkpoint with Gaza on Tuesday to allow humanitarian aid. By Wednesday, about 600 people had entered Egypt from Gaza, and about 500 had crossed in the other direction. On Wednesday, dozens of <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/p/palestinians/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier" title="More articles about Palestinians." class="meta-classifier">Palestinians</a> sat in an entry hall at the Rafah crossing, waiting for two hours or more to learn whether they would be issued entry stamps to Egypt or be turned back. </p><div id="pageLinks"><ul id="pageNumbers"><li> 1 </li><li> <a onClick="s_code_linktrack('Article-MultiPagePageNum2');" title="Page 2" href="/2010/06/03/world/middleeast/03flotilla.html?pagewanted=2">2</a> </li></ul><a class="next" onClick="s_code_linktrack('Article-MultiPage-Next');"
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<p><p>Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem and Sabrina Tavernise from Istanbul. Reporting was contributed Alan Cowell from London; Fares Akram from Gaza; Mona El-Naggar from Cairo; Dina Kraft from Tel Aviv; Rina Castelnuovo from Ashdod, Israel; and Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations.</p></p>
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