Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected criticism of a deadly raid against a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza earlier this week, saying the blockade of the Palestinian territory is needed to prevent missile attacks against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The comments came hours after all remaining pro-Palestinians activists from the aid ships were sent to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to be expelled. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said Israel decided not to prosecute any of them, writing in an order Wednesday that "keeping them here would do more damage to the country's vital interests than good."
About a dozen female activists scuffled with security officers at the airport but were subdued, Israeli officials said.
One police officer, identified only by his first name Shahar, told The Associated Press that two of the women jumped on his back and another punched him in the face.
Officials said Wednesday no charges will be filed and the women, along with hundreds of other activists, will be expelled as planned.
The activists were all on board a flotilla that tried to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip on Monday. Israel intercepted the flotilla, setting off clashes on one ship that killed nine activists and wounded dozens more.
In a statement broadcast from his office, Netanyahu defended the blockade and said the aim of the flotilla was to break it, not to bring aid to Gaza.
"Israel is facing an attack of international hypocrisy," he said.
"If the blockade had been broken, it would have been followed by dozens, hundreds of boats," he added. "Each boat could carry dozens of missiles."
He noted that the Israeli takeover of five of the boats went relatively calmly, but on the sixth ship, "we saw an action directed by terrorists affiliated with Hamas. This was not the Love Boat."
"There was an attempt to lynch Israeli soldiers," Netanyahu charged. "Are these peace lovers, pacifists? These are supporters of terrorism, extremists."
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