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IDF initiates special training ahead of 'Nakba Day'
By YAAKOV KATZ
04/23/2012
Israel seeking to avoid repeat of last year’s Nakba Day when about 100 protesters succeeded in crossing into the state.
 
The IDF is gearing up for “Nakba Day” protests expected next month and has sent snipers for special training to sharpen their skills ahead of planned demonstrations along Israel’s borders.

A few weeks ago, the IDF and the Israel Police went on high alert to prevent the Global March to Jerusalem. The day passed quietly, though, without any major demonstrations on either of Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria.

However, the IDF is concerned that it will face on May 15 a repeat of last year’s Nakba Day when about 100 protesters succeeded in crossing into the state from Syria.

A number of protesters were reported killed then by the IDF along the borders with Lebanon and Syria. Nakba Day – or the “day of catastrophe” – is the day the Palestinians commemorate the establishment of the State of Israel.

Ahead of the planned demonstrations, the IDF recently completed the erection of a new fence along the Syrian border as well as the creation of new minefields aimed at preventing infiltrations. In addition, the IDF has been training its sniper units to target protesters’ legs in a nonfatal way.

“Nakba Day will be another test and we will be prepared,” a senior officer said.

While the Global March to Jerusalem passed quietly, the IDF is concerned that the Syrian leadership will purposely dispatch protesters to the border as part of an effort to divert attention away from President Bashar Assad’s violent crackdown on the Syrian people.

In recent weeks, Israel has passed on messages to UNIFIL in Lebanon warning that the IDF will use force to prevent an infiltration of its border. Last year, the Lebanese Armed Forces were heavily deployed along the border and actively prevented demonstrators from approaching the border.

In the West Bank, the IDF and the civil administration are coordinating with Palestinian Authority security forces to enable Palestinians to protest in a way that will not lead to an escalation in violence. Expected hotspots will once again include the Kalandiya crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
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