Forgive me if these questions sound naive but why did they not wait until they were no longer in international waters? Why did they leave themselves so vulnerable when boarding?
As the Turkish & Arab activists' operation was strongly suspected of being intended for propaganda purposes, the Israeli assault was conducted before first light to avoid photos being taken of the kind of incident occurring that actually developed. The Mavi Marmara
was expected to arrive in Israeli waters in daylight, so this is why the heli-borne assault occurred at the time it did & outside Israel's territorial waters. Also presumably conducted early while the activists were thought likely (wrongly as it turned out) to still be asleep. Also lightly armed to avoid being provocative - an unwise decision bearing in mind Arab hot-headedness, & the strong (& as it turned out correct) suspicion that this was all a propaganda exercise. And the strong possibility that the activists would also put up an Islamist-style resistance for the benefit of their camera-crews! Ie to inspire the converted by fighting back against the Jews, as much as to deceive "useful fools" among falsely guilt-ridden Western-handringers - such as the EU & other easily deceived Western governments etc.
That's what I've surmised from general news sources, particularly this one:http://www.debka.com/article/8824/Watchet