Israel warned a Gaza Flotilla that it was moving towards restricted waters and directed it to a safe port:
The Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, or the leads ship in the Flotilla, decided to continue on its route and Israeli commandos via helicopter attempted to board the ship. Their goal was to go straight to the bridge and order the captain to stop. They were only prepared for protesters and minimal resistance, but instead they met with a much higher level of resistance than anticipated:
Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.
However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons.
One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows. The commandoes were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows. …
The forces hurled stun grenades, yet the rioters on the top deck, whose number swelled up to 30 by that time, kept on beating up about 30 commandoes who kept gliding their way one by one from the helicopter. At one point, the attackers nabbed one commando, wrested away his handgun, and threw him down from the top deck to the lower deck, 30 feet below. The soldier sustained a serious head wound and lost his consciousness.Only after this injury did Flotilla 13 troops ask for permission to use live fire. The commander approved it: You can go ahead and fire. The soldiers pulled out their handguns and started shooting at the rioters’ legs, a move that ultimately neutralized them. Meanwhile, the rioters started to fire back at the commandoes.
There’s a much longer version at Ynetnews, including how the passengers tried to bring down the IDF helicopter. Also Haaretz.com has a similar account that puts the death unofficial death toll between 14-20
Thus far our US response to this incident is to call it a tragedy:
“The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” said White House spokesman William Burton.
You can read how other nations are responding at the link. Suffice it to say that many are condemning the act and are demanding a full investigation, referring the flotilla passengers as civilians instead of what they were, an armed resistance.
I can only imagine what our response will be to Israel in the next few days as more details are officially made known.
UPDATE: Israel released this video showing their commandos being assaulted as they disembarked the IDF helicopter:
UPDATE:MirCat: Israel released this video showing assaults on Israeli Seals close up.