Israel has once again rejected calls by Turkish officials demanding Tel Aviv to apologize over its deadly attack on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday said his country would sever its diplomatic ties with Israel if Tel Aviv failed to offer a formal apology over the attack, Hurriyat newspaper reported.
He also announced Turkey has closed its airspace to all Israeli military flights.
Responding to Ankara’s renewed demand, officials in Tel Aviv defended the commando attack on the civilian aid convoy and criticized Turkey’s warnings of "broken" diplomatic ties.
"Israel will never apologize for defending its citizens…Of course, we regret the loss of life but it was not the Israeli side that initiated the violence," AFP quoted a senior Israeli official as saying.
The unnamed official was echoing earlier remarks by Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu who earlier defended the attack as an act of self-defense.
"When you want an apology, you don’t use threats or ultimatums," said Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, who accused Turkey of having "another agenda in mind," without giving further details.
On May 31, Israel’s navy commandos launched a pre-dawn attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American activist, and injured nearly 50 others.
Activists accompanying the six-ship civilian convoy maintain the use of deadly force by the Israeli troops who shot their way into the Turkish-flagged vessel Mavi Marmara was totally unjustified.