Israel, in the dock at the top United Nations human rights body over its bloody raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla en route to the Gaza Strip, accused the activists on Tuesday of being a "lynch mob" with ties to terror groups including the Islamist Hamas.
But Israel appeared isolated at the UN Human Rights Council, where even its closest ally the United States said it expected a credible, transparent investigation into Monday's attack in which nine activists died.
The 47-member forum held a special three-hour debate at the request of Arab and Islamic states. It was expected to vote on Wednesday on their joint resolution condemning the attack and calling for an independent inquiry.
"The attack on the Israeli soldiers was beyond all doubt premeditated. The weapons used had been prepared in advance," Israeli Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar told the Geneva meeting.
"They were not on a humanitarian mission but one of provocation and incitement. They used knives and clubs and shot two Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces had no choice but to defend themselves," he said.
Yaar said the Turkish-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), an Islamic charity that organized the convoy, "has publicly professed connections to Egypt's Islamic Brotherhood and the Hamas, and has been a central actor of fund raising and financing terror for Hamas around the world".
A 2006 report by the Danish Institute for International Studies written by counter-terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann described the IHH as a front for funding terrorist organizations and sending fighters to countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. The IHH denied the accusations at the time.
Yaar added that Israel was justified under international law in acting against the flotilla.
He accused Gaza's ruling Hamas of "smuggling arms and military supplies into Gaza by land and sea, in order to fortify its positions and continue its attacks (on Israel)".
He asserted that international law permitted capturing a vessel attempting to breach a naval blockade, even in international waters, as was the case on Monday.
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