The Israeli prime minister has accused international critics of 'hypocrisy' over his government's handling of the Gaza humanitarian flotilla.

Benjamin Netanyahu defended Monday's seizure of a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, in which nine activists aboard were killed.

In a televised address to the nation, he said he would continue to enforce the blockade of Gaza.

He said to lift the embargo would turn it into a base for Iranian missiles that would threaten both Israel and Europe.

Earlier, Taoiseach Brian Cowen urged the Israeli government to exercise absolute restraint in dealing with the MV Rachel Corrie.

The Irish-owned ship, which is carrying humanitarian aid, is continuing its journey towards Gaza despite the Israeli blockade of the territory.

There are 15 people on board the vessel, including five Irish citizens. It expects to reach the Gaza coastline by Friday afternoon.

Mr Cowen told the Dáil that the Government has been maintaining close contact with the ship. He added that the presence of cement on board may be problematic.

Israel deports activists

Bus takes activists to airportThe Israeli Government has begun deporting hundreds of foreign activists detained after it stormed the flotilla carrying aid for Gaza in international waters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that a plane carrying detainees has landed in Ankara in Turkey.

A man who holds dual Irish/Libyan citizenship was on board the plane. Another four Irish citizens are on a plane heading for Istanbul.

The Department believes that another Irish citizen is still in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

An Irish embassy official has been deployed to Istanbul airport to provide any assistance necessary to the Irish deportees when they arrive.

Ambassador withdraws from Oireachtas meetingZion Evrony

Meanwhile, Israel's Ambassador to Ireland Dr Zion Evrony has withdrawn from a meeting of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee, which was scheduled to take place tomorrow.

The Israeli embassy said Dr Evrony withdrew due to 'unforeseen circumstances'.

Committee Chairman Dr Michael Woods said: 'This eleventh hour volta face by the Ambassador is a most disappointing development.

'The Committee had been anxious to seek answers from him regarding his Government's actions against vessels in international waters carrying humanitarian supplies for the people of Gaza.'

The Turkish cabinet held a special meeting with security and intelligence chiefs to discuss relations with Israel after the assault.

Four of the nine people killed during the incident were Turkish. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has reportedly ordered non-essential staff from its diplomatic mission in Turkey to leave the country.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has described the events of Monday as 'completely unacceptable'.

He said he had spoken to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences for the deaths of Turkish nationals.

Shane Dillon returns to Ireland

Shane Dillon arrives in IrelandLast night, Shane Dillon (left), the first of the Irish deportees who was travelling on the flotilla, arrived back in Dublin Airport on a flight from Frankfurt.

He said the Israeli military landing parties had treated those on board the vessels badly.

Describing the dramatic moments the Challenger 1 came under attack, Mr Dillon said the ship was surrounded by blacked-out vessels and helicopters before armed forces launched an assault at close range with stun guns and high-powered paintball pellets.

'I wouldn't call them soldiers, they are terrorists,' said the 36-year-old.

'They attacked us in international waters. That was a pure act of piracy in international waters on a peace fleet.'

He angrily denied accusations that activists had weapons on board the ships.

'The weapons the Israelis displayed were cooking knives, a hammer. This was a big merchant ship, of course it's going to have a hammer, of course it's going to have galley knives,' he said.

He said that, despite a wound to his left arm from a Taser, he was treated better than most activists because he was a member of the crew.

'There was one girl, she was only young, a Belgian girl, she had a broken nose,' he continued.

'One of the leaders from the Free Gaza Organisation, he was beaten on the deck of the ship.

'They smashed our stern door which is glass and they beat some of the girls and pushed them around the deck. They weren't friendly with them at all.'

Mr Dillon said he only was freed to leave Israel once he signed deportation papers.

'They asked me to sign and I signed numerous things, I signed Shane the Pain and Mickey Mouse,' he added.

'They didn't really understand. They gave it to me in Hebrew and I said, 'Well, I don't understand that' and they gave it to me in English and I said 'Ní thuigim é sin'.