Activists on ships raided by Israeli commandos cast doubt on Israel's version of events that led to at least 10 deaths.
Eyewitness accounts from ships raided by Israeli commandos have cast doubt on Israel's version of events that led to the deaths of at least 10 people.
German pro-Palestinian activist Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship.
Israel says its soldiers were attacked with "knives, clubs and other weapons" and opened fire in self defence.
The raid led to widespread condemnation and the UN has called for an inquiry.
LEGALITY OF CONVOY RAID
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- The UN Charter on the Law of the Sea says only if a vessel is suspected to be transporting weapons, or weapons of mass destruction, can it be boarded in international waters. Otherwise the permission of the ship's flag carrying nation must be sought.
- The charter allows for naval blockades, but the effect of the blockade on civilians must be proportionate to the effect on the military element for the blockade to be legally enforceable.
- A ship trying to breach a blockade can be boarded and force may be used to stop it as long as it is "necessary and proportionate".
- The Israeli Defense Forces say soldiers acted in self-defence.
- An investigation, either by the UN or by the ship's flag-carrier Turkey, is required to find if the use of force was proportionate to a claim of self defence.
The six ships, carrying aid and campaigners, had sailed from Cyprus in a bid to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"This was not an act of self-defence," said Mr Paech, a politician, as he arrived back in Berlin wrapped in a blue blanket.
"Personally I saw two and a half wooden batons that were used... There was really nothing else. We never saw any knives.
"This was an attack in international waters on a peaceful mission... This was a clear act of piracy," he added.
Fellow German activist Inge Hoeger said they had been on the ships "for peaceful purposes".
"We wanted to transport aid to Gaza," she said. "No-one had a weapon."
She added: "We were aware that this would not be a simple cruise across the sea to deliver the goods to Gaza. But we did not count on this kind of brutality."
Activist Bayram Kalyon, arriving back in Istanbul, had been a passenger on the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara where most, if not all, of the deaths occurred.
"The captain... told us 'They are firing randomly, they are breaking the windows and entering inside. So you should get out of here as soon as possible'. That was our last conversation with him."
Diplomatic sources in Ankara have said at least four of those killed were Turkish. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the assault was a "bloody massacre" and must be punished. He said Israel should not test Turkey's patience.
Further criticism of Israel came from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday.
In an interview with the AFP news agency he said Israel's blockade of Gaza was responsible for the deadly raid.
"Had Israelis heeded to my call and to the call of the international community by lifting the blockade of Gaza, this tragic incident would not have happened," he said.
Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Israel to release people and boats it had seized.
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