The IDF is taking extra precautions and preparing a firm but non-lethal response to any attempt to force the nation’s borders in the coming days, as Palestinians plan mass marches to mark Arab losses in the Six Day War.
IDF units have dug a barbed-wire-protected trench along the Golan Heights security fence at Majdal Shams, Israel Radio reported.
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Residents of the Druse village have been instructed not to approach the fence, which some 100 Syrians crossed on May 15 in a dramatic cross-border breach.
Near Moshav Avivim, troops have fortified the border fence with Lebanon and set up new lookout posts, the radio station reported.
The IDF Northern Command has ordered soldiers on the Syrian and Lebanese borders to follow the usual rules of engagement before opening fire. They are instructed to shout warnings at protesters approaching the border, then, should those instructions be ignored, to fire warning shots in the air, a military source said on Wednesday.
If marchers continue to approach the fence, troops are ordered to direct nonlethal fire at their lower bodies, the source said.
“We could also use tear gas and stun grenades. But we won’t tolerate the idea that our international borders will become like Bil’in,” the source said.
Bil’in is a village near Modi’in Illit and the site of Friday protests in which the West Bank security barrier is routinely damaged.
“We are talking about protecting our international borders,” the source said. “We won’t let the other side get its wish and have 70 people killed...
We have no intention of letting Syria and Lebanon use these incidents to delegitimize Israel.”
An extensive campaign on Facebook and other Internet forums is calling for marches on Israel’s borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza, and for Arabs in Israel, the West Bank and Jerusalem to converge on the Aksa Mosque to declare their “allegiance” to the city. Three separate but similar rallies are planned for this Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, with Sunday – the anniversary of the war’s outbreak in 1967 – expected to draw the largest crowds.
An IDF officer told The Associated Press this week that the army would set “red lines” for demonstrators and would provide troops with crowd-control tools such as rubber bullets and water cannons to handle “life-threatening situations.”
The official said the army would be better equipped to handle protests than it was two weeks ago, when on “Nakba Day” – the annual Palestinian day of mourning over Israel’s creation – at least 10 people were killed on the Lebanese and Syrian borders while trying to enter the country.
The most active group organizing the rallies on “Naksa Day” – the day of the Arab “setback” in 1967 – calls itself Third Palestinian Intifada. The group’s Facebook page features a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds beneath a banner reading “June 7.”
The page has been removed by Facebook several times for inciting violence, only to return under a slightly different name. Since going back up in April, the site has amassed some 375,000 followers.
On Monday, page administrators posted a link to “Encyclopedia of Jews, Judaism and Zionism,” an eight-volume tome by Abdel Wahab Elmessiri, an Egyptian academic who until his death in 2008 was a leading member of the both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Kefaya movement to oust president Hosni Mubarak. Elmessiri’s work portrays Israel as a base of Western imperialism, and Zionists alternately as parasites or Nazis.
Lebanon’s press has also been abuzz with plans for mass rallies. The pro- Syrian Ad-Diyar daily quoted organizers suggesting 100,000 people would participate in processions from refugee camps in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre to the village of Maroun al-Ras, the site of border clashes on this year’s “Nakba Day” that left more than 10 people dead.
As-Safir, a left-wing pan-Arab daily published in Beirut, reported that the Lebanese Army has no intention of allowing a repeat of last month’s disturbances.
“Senior military sources told As-Safir that the Lebanese Army has ‘good control of the border’ and will not allow anyone to tamper with security,” the paper said. Western sources said Maj.-Gen. Alberto Asarta, commander of the UNIFIL monitoring force in south Lebanon, would be traveling to Israel to discuss plans for dealing with the unrest, the paper reported.
UNIFIL spokesman Neeraj Singh told Beirut’s English-language Daily Star newspaper the force had no official confirmation so far about the march in its area of operations. He added that it was the Lebanese Army’s responsibility to secure the safety of protesters, “although we always stand ready to assist the LAF [the Lebanese Armed Forces], if they so request.”
A Lebanese military source told the paper the LAF might keep protesters from approaching the border altogether.
“The army has reservations about allowing protesters to reach the
border,” he reportedly said. “We will not allow a repeat of what
happened on Nakba Day, in terms of the killings of Palestinians.”
The same report quoted a senior Fatah commander in Lebanon saying a
peaceful rally would proceed from the coastal town of Nakoura, across
the border from Rosh Hanikra, to the Shi’ite village of Khiam, 4 km.
north of Metulla.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on the citizens and armies of
Israel's neighboring Arab states to stand with Palestinians ahead of
additional border protests .
Referring to protests on Nakba Day last month, he said: “The blood of
the martyrs from Maroun a-Ras or the Golan will not be spilled for
nothing,” Channel 10 reported.
The issue of Palestinian refugees, the Hezbollah strong man added, "needs to to remain our central issue.”
“We need to invest efforts in order to return [the Palestinian people]
to their homes, to their lands and their holy places,” Nasrallah said in