Jerusalem, Jan 23 (Agencies):  Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and its deadly raid on a Turkish-led flotilla for the Palestinian enclave last year were on Sunday described as legal under international law by an Israeli probe and cleared the soldiers involved in the operation.

The Turkel Committee report said Israel's actions had "the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries". Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed in the deadly Israeli raid in May 2010.

A separate UN inquiry last year said the Israeli Navy had shown an "unacceptable level of brutality".

"It is possible to determine that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers acted professionally and with great presence of mind in light of the extreme violence which they hadn't  expected", the report said.

The raid attracted widespread international condemnation and severely strained Israel's relations with long time ally, Turkey.

According to the commission, the soldiers were surprised by the violence when they boarded the Marmara.

"The decision-makers didn't have any prior knowledge of the violent reception planned by the IHH members and their inability to identify the intentions of the IHH directly affected the planning and execution of the operation," it said.

The commission members also ascertained that incomplete intelligence gathering wasn't the only reason for the lack of preparation.

The IDF received a great deal of praise from the Turkel committee for placing senior officers on the scene, including the navy commander.

"This increased the chain of command's awareness of the developments as they happened which helped them to receive decisions efficiently, at the right time as the incident developed," the report points out.

However, the report was critical of Israel's land blockade of the coastal enclave, saying that Israel "examine of the medical needs of the people of Gaza in order to find ways to improve the current situation."

The panel of inquiry, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, with five Israeli members and two international observers, was set up in June.

The inquiry heard testimony from high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Army Chief  General Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as several Israeli-Arab lawmakers who were
travelling with the flotilla.