IDF on high alert for ‘Naksa Day’ border unrest

By OREN KESSLER
June 5, 2011 10:22

30 protesters gather near Syrian border; today billed as climax of three-day commemoration; large border demonstrations reportedly canceled in Lebanon and Syria; protesters in Jordan demand peace treaty’s annulment

4 minute read.



Syrians hold Palestinian flags in Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams demonstration 311 R. (photo credit: Reuters)

IDF and police forces are on high alert and have shored up their presence on several of Israel’s frontiers ahead of Sunday’s anticipated border marches to commemorate the Palestinian “Naksa,” or “setback” in the 1967 Six Day War. A wide-scale Internet campaign has called for protests in the West Bank and Jerusalem, on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and outside its embassies in Cairo and Amman.

Security forces are concentrating on reinforcing the Golan Heights border areas opposite Quneitra and at Majdal Shams, where on May 15, approximately 100 Syrians breached the security fence in rallies marking the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s founding in 1948.

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Early Sunday morning, some thirty demonstrators gathered on the Syrian side of the border, but did not appear to be approaching the fence, Israel Radio reported. IDF forces were in the area.

Sunday marks the first day of the 1967 war, in which Israel expanded its territory to include east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula.

Demonstrations have also been planned for Tuesday, the anniversary of Israel taking control of east Jerusalem.

The Internet campaign “Third Palestinian Intifada” has called on Palestinians and Israeli Arabs to march on Jerusalem’s Al-Aksa Mosque in a show of “allegiance” to the city.

Organizers in Lebanon canceled Sunday’s march on the Israeli border, Beirut’s Daily Star reported Saturday, following pressure from the Lebanese authorities. Late last week the Lebanese military declared the border area a closed military zone.

“There won’t be anything for Sunday. There won’t be a protest march Sunday,” said Yasser Azzam, a Hamas official and organizer of the march. A march organizer told the paper last week that protesters would reach the Israeli border eventually, even if later than the June 5 target date.

Reports emerged late Saturday night that the march in Syria could also be canceled.

Egypt’s official news agency reported that the planned procession from Syria to Israel’s Golan Heights border would not take place on Sunday as planned.

The MENA news agency reported that the head of the committee representing Syria’s various factions announced that the event has been postponed, and that Naksa Day rallies were to be marked within Syria and Lebanon instead.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said it was difficult to tell whether the decision to cancel demonstrations in Lebanon would lead organizers to turn Jerusalem into the protest headquarters.

“They’re two different places with two different populations, but we’re ready for anything,” he said.

A day earlier, police beefed up their presence in the capital for fears of Naksa-inspired riots erupting after Muslim afternoon prayers. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told the DPA news agency that the reinforced presence was not based on any concrete warnings, rather a general assessment of potential trouble.

Authorities also imposed restrictions on entry to the Temple Mount Compound in the Old City, the agency reported, and have limited entry to men over 45 and women.

Sunday has been billed as the climax of the three-day “Naksa Day” commemoration, but protests got underway in several locations this weekend.

On Friday, around 150 Jordanians gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Amman demanding the annulment of the 1994 peace treatybetween the neighboring countries.

Demonstrators chanted pro- Palestinian slogans, demanded the embassy be closed and the ambassador extradited. Iran’s English-language Press TV reported that demonstrators burned Israeli flags and shouted “No Zionist embassy on Jordanian land,” and calls for unity between Palestinians and Jordanians.

The following day, members of the United Arab List-Ta’al party attempted to hold a rally in Majdal Shams, but were denied entry by police. Instead, Druse leaders met the activists, including MK Taleb A-Sanaa (United Arab List), on the road leading to the village. Waving Palestinian flags, protesters chanted “the Golan Heights are Arab” and slogans against Israeli rule over the strategic plateau.

“We want to send a message against the occupation. This is an important task and our message is legitimate and that is why I am asking that we be allowed to reach the Golan, because the people accompanying me are not criminals and we won’t not hurt anyone,” Sanaa said. “Many people are passing where we have been stopped and were not checked, as they are Jewish.

“We shall return to visit Majdal Shams,” Sanaa said after the rally dispersed. “No police measure will prevent us from voicing our opinions and fighting against the occupation.”

Last week, Israeli security sources said the army would deliver a “firm yet non-lethal response” to any infiltration attempt, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s obligation to defend its borders.

“Like any country in the world, Israel has the right and obligation to guard and defend its borders. Therefore my instructions are clear, to act with restraint, but with the required determination, to protect our borders, our communities and our citizens,” he told a hi-tech conference in Jerusalem.

Melanie Lidman and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.


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