Around 100 Syrian protesters infiltrated the northern border on Sunday and
clashed with IDF troops, at one of many flashpoints along the various borders
and in the West Bank amid demonstrations marking the Palestinian “Nakba
At least one Syrian was killed by IDF gunfire. In similar strife
along the Lebanese border, conflicting reports spoke of between three and 10
people killed, while the IDF said that most and possibly all of the casualties
were caused by the Lebanese Armed Forces.
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Senior IDF officers accused
Syrian President Bashar Assad as well as the Islamic regime in Iran of
supporting the violent infiltration of the border near the Golan Druse village
of Majdal Shams, in an attempt to shift the focus from Assad’s domestic troubles
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he hoped the
confrontations would not escalate.
“We hope calm and quiet will quickly
return. But let nobody be misled: We are determined to defend our borders and
our sovereignty,” the prime minister said. “It is important to note that the
events were held on a day that marked the establishment of the State of
The organizers of these violent events have themselves explained
that “their struggle is not for the ’67 line,” but rather an attempt to
undermine the very existence of the State of Israel, whose creation they have
described as a disaster that must be corrected, Netanyahu said.
important to look at the reality with open eyes and to understand who Israel is
dealing with and who it is fighting against,” he said.
admitted that they were not adequately prepared for the demonstration that
developed along the border and that fewer than 60 soldiers were deployed near
Majdal Shams when the trouble started, since intelligence assessments spoke of a
larger demonstration near the Quneitra Crossing to the south.
appears to be a cynical and transparent act by the Syrian leadership to
deliberately create a crisis on the border so as to distract attention from the
very real problems that regime is facing at home,” a senior Israeli government
official said. “Syria is a police state. People don’t randomly approach
the border without the approval of the regime.”
No Syrian border
policemen appeared to be on hand.
The protest began as in past years at
the “Shouting Hill” – a place 400 meters east of the border where relatives of
Druse in Israel stand and shout to them. Around noon, 1,000 people on the Syrian
side began marching toward the border fence and a few hundred then rammed it,
trying to cross into Israel.
IDF soldiers under Col. Eshkol
Shukran, commander of the Golan Regional Brigade used crowd dispersion
techniques to push back the crowd.
“We tried to contain it by shooting in
the air,” Shukran, who was hit in the face by a large rock thrown by the
demonstrators and was later evacuated to Ziv Hospital in Safed, said on Sunday
night. He said that he ordered his men to open fire at the protesters’
legs after they began storming the fence.
“I gave the order when I
understood that we will find ourselves with thousands of people in Majdal,” he
One protester was killed and dozens of others were
wounded. The IDF brought 30 of the wounded Syrians to Ziv
The other infiltrators were returned to Syria by nightfall when
soldiers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)
The Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned what it called Israel’s
“We used crowd dispersion techniques, but the
number of people involved made this difficult,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak
“There comes a moment when there’s no choice but to fire at their legs,
and it is very good that forces acted with restraint and
judgment and we did not end with a bloodbath.”
This type of incident
might reoccur, the defense minister warned.
“We are only at the beginning
of things and it could be that we will see even more complicated challenges of
“The IDF must defend the state’s sovereignty, and, all told,
succeeded in doing so today,” Barak told Channel 2.
He added, however,
that the fact that infiltrators succeeded in breaking through the border fence
and storming Majdal Shams demanded an investigation from which lessons would be
“There were deaths in a few places, and we are sorry for the
deaths, but those who tested Israel’s sovereignty and those who sent them and
encouraged them are responsible,” Barak said.
There were also clashes
along the Lebanese border near the town of Maroun a-Ras.
reports said 10 people were killed by Israeli gunfire. The IDF said, however,
that most and possibly all of the casualties were caused by the Lebanese army,
which used heavy gunfire to keep the protesters away from the
Israel had warned the Lebanese military and the UNIFIL
peacekeeping force – which the IDF said did not actively work to prevent the
violence – that it would respond harshly if the protesters tried to force the
At one point, IDF troops shot at the legs of the protesters after
they tried to destroy the border fence.
Maroun a-Ras is a Hezbollah
stronghold and was the site of some of the fiercest fighting between the IDF and
the Lebanese Shi’ite militia during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
the West Bank, scores of Palestinian youths attacked IDF soldiers for hours at
the Kalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem with stones and gasoline
bombs. They set tires on fire and soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas to
drive them away.
In the Gaza Strip, one Palestinian was killed and at
least 80 others were wounded when thousands of Palestinians marched toward IDF
troops at the Nahal Oz and Erez border crossings, sources in Gaza City
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a televised
address to mark “Nakba Day” that those killed in clashes with the IDF on Sunday
were martyrs to the Palestinian cause.
“Their precious blood will not be
wasted. It was spilt for the sake of our nation’s freedom,” Abbas
Thirty-six people were arrested for throwing stones and disturbing
the peace in Arab neighborhoods across Jerusalem, though the demonstrations were
“much quieter” than expected, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby
The largest demonstrations were in the Isawiya neighborhood, where
nine youths were arrested for throwing rocks at security personnel in violence
that lasted nearly 12 hours.
There were also skirmishes in A-Tur and the
Shuafat refugee camp, and a protest by 400 left-wing Israelis in Walaja in the
capital’s south, who tried to block the road.
Riots also broke out in
Jordan, where police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of pro-Palestinian
activists who had gathered at a village on the border to mourn the creation of
the State of Israel, witnesses said.
In Sinai, Egyptian forces arrested
six people and blocked hundreds of others from marching to the border with
A Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Sami Abu Zuhri, called
Sunday “a turning point in the Israeli-Arab conflict” that proved the
Palestinian people and Arabs were committed to ending Israeli
Hezbollah condemned the “Israeli aggression on unarmed
civilians in Maroun a-Ras and on the Golan, which constitutes a dangerous
violation of human rights,” the movement’s lawmaker, Hassan Fadlallah,
said. He participated in a protest in Maroun a-Ras.
resistance movement in Lebanon [Hezbollah] will continue to be an advocate for
Palestinian national rights and calls on everyone to stand united in confronting
Israeli occupation,” he said.
“What happened today in Maroun a-Ras and in
the Golan is an embodiment of the will of the Palestinian people who are
committed to the right of return,” Fadlallah said.
Early on Sunday,
Netanyahu spoke in defense of Israel’s democracy and its extension to Arab
“The state was founded 63 years ago on the basis of the
Declaration of Independence, which promises equality of rights for all of our
citizens regardless of religion, race and sex. We extended our hand in peace to
our Arab neighbors and promised equality, progress and partnership to Israel’s
Arab citizens. When one looks at the region today, Israeli Arabs are the
only Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa who enjoy democratic rights,
equality and civil rights,” Netanyahu told the cabinet at its regular weekly
As part of its investment in the minority sector, the cabinet
approved spending NIS 350 million to strengthen Beduin communities in northern
Israel, the prime minister said.
“I regret that there are extremists
among Israeli Arabs and in neighboring countries who have turned the day on
which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli
democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage. There is
no place for this, for denying the existence of the State of Israel. No to
extremism and no to violence. The opposite is true,” Netanyahu said.Melanie Lidman and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.