16 Killed, Israeli warships storm Freedom Flotilla (Video Inside)

In this photo released by the pro-Islamic Turkish aid organization IHH, Turkish and international
activists stand on the deck of a Turkish ship shortly before Israeli warships allegedly attacked
several ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid bound for Gaza

Pro-Palestinian activists from Turkey, wearing life jackets, hold a news conference on board
the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara as they sail in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Gaza: The death toll has risen in an attack on the Freedom Flotilla after Israeli commandos stormed at least one ship loaded with pro-Palestinian activists bound for Gaza, according to media reports on Monday.

Al Jazeera TV reported that at least 16 people had been killed in clashes. Media reports earlier put the death toll at 14. Al Jazeera TV and CNN Turk TV reported that at least 30 others injured in the attack.

Watch Al Jazeera video from the attack:

Israeli security forces were put on high alert to handle any on high "possible disturbances" among the country's Arab Israeli population in the wake of the naval raid, a police spokesman said.

Israel's Army Radio said the clashes broke out after the passengers allegedly tried to grab weapons off the naval commandos who tried to storm one of the boats.

Israel radio said at least one vessel was boarded by Israeli troops backed with helicopters. An unnamed Arab journalist traveling with the flotilla reported that shooting was taking place. Hamas-run TV showed pictures of the wounded.

Gaza's Al Aqsa television also showed footage of black-clad Israeli commandos descending from helicopters and clashing with activists.

Israeli TV 10 reported that Israeli marine commandos opened fire after being attacked with axes and knives by a number of the passengers on board the aid ships.

The Israeli military denied that its forces attacked the boats but said they would enforce the decision to keep them away from Gaza.

The head of the Hamas, Esmail Haniya, condemned the "brutal" Israeli attack, adding: "We call on the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza."

Blog: Sailing to Gaza on the Freedom Flotilla

Earlier, three Israeli missile boats left their naval base in the northern coastal city of Haifa on a mission to intercept the Freedom Flotilla, reporters on board one of the vessels told Gulf News before being told to turn off their phones.

Gulf News reporter Abbas Al Lawati was on board the Mavi Marmara, which was attacked by Israeli forces. He lost contact with the Gulf News office when the Israelis blocked communication but had been blogging and sending live updates up to that point. Follow Al Lawati on twitter (@allawati)

Emergency teams were distributing life jackets to people onboard the Gaza aid ships. Some passengers were seen wearing gas masks and sirens were heard before communication systems were jammed, making it difficult to reach anyone onboard.

Al Jazeera reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli navy forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain. The Turkish NTV network also reported an Israeli takeover with gunfire, and at least two people were killed.

The Al Jazeera broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, "Everybody shut up!"


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