Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday amid a serious row with Turkey that he wanted better relations but also praised forces who took part in a deadly raid on a Turkish ferry.
"Over the past few days we have seen a worsening of the tension with Turkey which was not our choice and is not our choice today," he told Israeli naval officers in the northern port of Haifa.
"We respect the Turkish people and their country's traditions, and we sincerely want improved relations," he said.
Ties between Turkey and Israel, once close allies, have been in crisis in recent days over Israel's 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which left nine Turkish citizens dead.
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On Wednesday, Netanyahu hailed members of the commando unit who boarded the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the flotilla, killing the nine Turkish nationals.
"The idea of justice is an important strategic asset for Israel, and it is in the name of justice that I tell you the people of Israel who sent you on this mission are proud of you, we are proud of you," he said.
Earlier, Transport Minister Israel Katz said Israel will not apologise to Turkey over the flotilla raid and will not lift its blockade on the Islamist-run Gaza Strip.
"Israel defends its interests and its government will not apologise," said Katz, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, on Israeli public radio.
Israel-Turkish relations had already frayed over the raid, but tensions reached new highs last week after the UN published a report accusing Israel of using excessive force during the operation, but endorsing its blockade of Gaza.
Turkey responded angrily to the report, announcing the expulsion of Israel's ambassador and suspending military agreements with the Jewish state.