Israel accused the Syrians on Monday of orchestrating the events that led to Sunday’s violence on the Golan border,
with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying the incident was “not a
coincidence,” and Israel filing a protest with the UN General Assembly
placing responsibility for the deaths on Damascus.
The Syrians reported that more than 20 people were killed and hundreds were injured, but the IDF said there were fewer casualties. The numbers were not independently confirmed.
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Netanyahu said the incident was an attempt to “heat up the border, and to breach our borders.”
“Unfortunately,” he said, “I can’t say that the Syrian government used all its weight to prevent a provocation. It allowed those people to carry out a provocation that was a challenge to Israeli sovereignty.”
Netanyahu said this was an attempt by Damascus to “divert international attention” from what was happening inside Syria.
Netanyahu said the “struggle is not around the fifth of June [the start
of the 1967 Six Day War], but rather the 15th of May 1948. The dispute
is over the very existence of the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu said the Arab attacks on Israel in 1948 created two refugee
problems: a Jewish one and a Palestinian one. While Israel absorbed the
Jewish refugees, the Arab countries never solved the Arab refugee
“Now the descendants of the Palestinian refugees want to flood Israel
and breach its borders. This is not just or logical, and is an effort to
realize a fantasy that will endanger the peace of the region,” he said.
Netanyahu expressed regret for the loss of life, but said those who came to the border were warned against doing so.
“We are obligated to defend our borders, like all other countries. The
IDF acted in accordance with international law, we warned that we would
defend our borders,” he said.
A formal protest, along the lines that Netanyahu articulated, was lodged
Monday with the UN secretary-general and the Security Council.
The protest said that while Israel understands the right of freedom of
expression and demonstration, Sunday’s event turned violent when the
protesters made clear their intention to cross the border. Israel had
warned the international community that there would be provocations, and
made clear it would defend the integrity of its borders. It also said
that Syria did not do what was incumbent upon it by preventing the
protesters from approaching the border.
Israeli government officials, meanwhile, expressed a degree of
frustration with a statement put out by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
that he “condemns the use of violence and all actions intended to
This was a balance that was jarring, one official said.
There was more satisfaction, however, with the US response. The State
Department issued a statement saying “We are deeply troubled by attempts
on Sunday to cross the disengagement line in the Golan Heights,
resulting in injuries and the loss of life, and condemn the Syrian
government’s involvement in inciting these events. It is clear that such
behavior will not distract attention from the Syrian government’s
ongoing repression of demonstrators.
“As we have said,” the statement continued, “Israel, like any sovereign
nation, has a right to defend itself. We call for an end to the violence
and for all sides to exercise restraint.”
Russia, meanwhile, expressed “deep concern in relation to the new surge of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations.
The death and injury of many peaceful demonstrators in the course of these protests is of particular concern,” a statement said.
This response did not particularly surprise officials in Jerusalem, with
one government source pointing out that Russia – with a long time
patron-client relationship with Syria – has protected Damascus from
stronger international actions.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton responded to the incident by
calling on Israel to respond in a way that is “measured and
The incident, she said in a statement on Monday, “could undermine the long-held cease-fire on the Golan.”
“I call on all parties to exercise restraint,” she said, adding that “provocative actions like this should be avoided.”
She said that Sunday’s events, combined with the demonstrations that
took place on the northern border on May 15, “emphasize the urgency to
resume peace negotiations for a comprehensive and sustainable resolution
of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Hilary Leila Krieger and Reuters contributed to this report.