US accuses Syria of inciting Israel border clashes

White House: Damascus trying to distract attention from its own violent crackdown on protests; UN condemns Israeli fire in Lebanon.

By REUTERS
May 16, 2011 19:16
2 minute read.
Syrian protesters returned over border

Syrian protesters returned over border 311 (R). (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)

 
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ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE - The White House accused Syria on Monday of inciting deadly border clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian demonstrators, saying Damascus was trying to distract attention from its own violent crackdown on protests.

White House spokesman Jay Carney expressed regret for the loss of life in confrontations on Israel's frontiers with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday but said the Jewish state "has the right to prevent unauthorized crossing at its borders."

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"We urge maximum restraint on all sides," Carney told reporters on Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to Tennessee.

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 Day.”

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.


The White House put the onus on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the violence that broke out on the Israeli-Syrian border.

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Carney said the administration was "strongly opposed to the Syrian government's involvement in inciting yesterday's protests in the Golan Heights."

"Such behavior is unacceptable and does not serve as a distraction from the Syrian government's ongoing repression of demonstrators in its own country," he said.

"It seems apparent to us that this is an effort to distract attention from the legitimate expressions of protest by the Syrian people, and from the harsh crackdown that the Syrian government has perpetrated against its own people," he added.

The United Nations, meanwhile, condemned Israel's "disproportionate, deadly force" against demonstrators mourning the anniversary of the founding of Israel.

"I am shocked by the number of the deaths and the use of disproportionate, deadly force by the Israeli Defense Forces against apparently unarmed demonstrators, which I condemn," UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said.

"I strongly reiterate the need for all sides to exercise maximum restraint, to prevent the recurrence of such violence and to strictly adhere to resolution 1701," said Williams, referring to the UN resolution that halted hostilities between Israel and Shi'ite terror group Hezbollah in a 2006 war.

Yaakov Katz,  Ben Hartman, Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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