TODAY   |  June 03, 2010

Israel rejects probe into flotilla raid

Facing worldwide condemnation, Israel maintains that its commandos had the right to use deadly force during a raid of aid ships headed to Gaza. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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NATALIE MORALES, anchor: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is defending this week's raid on aid ships, calling international criticism of the raid hypocrisy. NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell 's in Tel Aviv this morning. Andrea , good morning to you.

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Good morning, Natalie . Today the United States is urging Israel to accept an independent investigation of its commando raid, but Israel remains defiant. Overnight Israel permitted the pro-Palestinian activists to return to Turkey . Crowds greeted them at heroes while mourning the nine who died in the clash with Israeli commandos. Facing worldwide condemnation, Israel is in political turmoil. In the parliament, some members denounced an Arab-Israeli member as a traitor for joining the flotilla. Today former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to persuade Israel 's leaders to relax the blockade.

Former Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: There is a policy that we could adopt for Gaza that is absolutely clear that Israel has the right to protect itself against people trying to smuggle arms into Gaza , but that we should allow not just, you know, the proper humanitarian aid in terms of food and so on, but actually the materials and construction materials to rebuild houses and so on.

MITCHELL: At issue, a million and a half Gaza residents unable to rebuild their lives. But Israel released more video trying to prove that the activists were not on a humanitarian mission.

Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (Israeli Prime Minister): This wasn't a love boat , this was a hate boat. These weren't pacifists, they weren't peace activists; these were violent supporters of terrorism.

MITCHELL: Today Israel is negotiating with Ireland over one of its ships now heading toward Gaza with more aid. Israel says it will enforce its blockade but knows that this time it has to avoid casualties. Natalie :

MORALES: Andrea Mitchell reporting in Tel Aviv . Thank you, Andrea .