US on Naksa clashes: Israel has right to defend itself

State Department says it is "deeply troubled," calls for both sides to exercise restraint after Syrian TV reports 18 people dead, 277 injured as thousands of protesters attempt to breach northern border.

By JPOST.COM STAFF,
June 5, 2011 22:25
3 minute read.
Syrian protesters approach the Israeli border

Syrian protesters approach the Israeli border 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

 
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Israel has the right to defend itself, just as every sovereign nation, the United States said following Naksa Day clashes by Syrian protesters along the Israel-Syrian border, AFP reported.

"We call for all sides to exercise restraint. Provocative actions like this should be avoided. Israel, like any sovereign nation, has a right to defend itself," the State Department said in a statement.

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"We are deeply troubled by events that took place earlier today in the Golan Heights resulting in injuries and the loss of life," the statement added.

Earlier Sunday, Syrian TV reported that 18 people were killed and 277 injured along the Syria-Israel border in the Golan Heights near Majdal Shams, reportedly from IDF fire. The IDF spokesperson said that the only information it had on deaths on the border were Syrian reports and therefore, it could not confirm the number of people killed or if there were any deaths.

After several hours of clashes, IDF began allowing Red Cross teams access to the Syrian border area in order to evacuate wounded protesters, Channel 10 reported.

Two armed men were identified near the border fence in Kunetra, on the Syrian side of the border, the IDF Spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday afternoon.



There was no further official information about the identity of the gunmen, or their proximity to the border but a security official suggested that the men could be Syrian police or army forces

Prior to spotting the armed men, according to the IDF spokesperson, around 150 people managed to cross to the Syrian side of the fence, entering a mined zone between the two fences in the Majdal Shams area.

"We issued warnings for them to stop advancing. When they continued, we fired warning shots in the air," an IDF spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post.

When the demonstrators continued toward the Israeli fence, they said, shots were fired at their lower bodies. "We know of 12 injuries," she added.



A second demonstration was observed on the Syrian border in Kunetra, where 200 to 300 demonstrators amassed. Four land mines exploded in the area after Syrian rioters threw Molotov cocktails at IDF forces. The cocktails exploded in a field, starting a fire which then set off the mines on the Syrian side of the border. The IDF was unaware of the number of casualties caused by the explosions. Channel 2 reported that the IDF arrested three Syrian infiltrators attempting to cross the border into Israel at Kunetra.

IDF forces were sending Arabic-language messages through loudspeakers over the border, warning that anyone approaching the fence would be killed.

Syrian television also reported that demonstrators were attempting to breach the fence at several other points in the Golan Heights, Channel 2 reported.

On Sunday evening, Syrian residents of Majdal Shams near the Syrian border threw massive amounts of rocks at IDF forces deployed in the area. Police forces were in the area using crowd dispersal methods.

Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that there are "radical elements who are trying to breach [Israel's] borders to mark the anniversary of the start of the Six Day War," speaking at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting. "We won't allow them to do it."

Netanyahu added that the security forces will act "firmly but with restraint."

IDF and police forces were 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.

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