Washington blames Syria for ‘Nakba Day’ Golan incident

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

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JORDANA HORN, , TOVAH L
May 17, 2011 14:52
2 minute read.
Syrian protesters returned over border

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

 
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The US on Monday said it regretted the loss of life during Nakba Day events on the Lebanese border, but stressed Israel’s right to defend itself and condemned Syria’s sending of Palestinian refugees to the border with the Golan.

“We regret the loss of life, and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those killed and wounded,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a informal press briefing. “Israel, like all countries, has the right to prevent unauthorized crossings at its borders. Its neighbors have a responsibility to prevent such activity.”

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He continued, “We urge maximum restraint on all sides.”

Carney condemned Syria’s role in spurring the clashes.

“We are also strongly opposed to the Syrian government’s involvement in inciting yesterday’s protests in the Golan Heights,” he said. “Such behavior is unacceptable.”

He charged that Syria was trying to deflect attention from ongoing protests within the country.



“It seems apparent to us that that is an effort to distract attention from the legitimate expressions of protests by the Syrian people and from the harsh crackdown that the Syrian government has perpetrated against its own people,” Carney said.

Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking member on the House foreign aid appropriations subcommittee, expressed similar sentiments.

“It is not surprising that President Assad is using Palestinian protesters to distract from the democratic uprising that is occurring within Syria’s own borders. But it nonetheless displays a shocking level of cynicism to risk provoking war in order to maintain a grasp on power,” she said. “President Assad must end the violent crackdown in Syria, stop his collaboration with Iran, and respect Israel’s right to exist.”

Lowey added that “Israel is a sovereign nation with every right to defend its borders from incursions or attacks.”

Earlier on Monday, both Israel and Lebanon filed complaints with the UN Security Council regarding Sunday’s Nakba Day events during which Lebanese and Syrian Palestinians tried to infiltrate Israel.

Israel’s Mission to the UN in New York blamed the Syrian and Lebanese governments for Sunday’s infiltration attempts, which it said breached council resolutions and international law. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has similarly asked it emissaries to explain this position to the governments in their host countries.

According to Reuters, the IDF on Sunday opened fire at three northern border locations to prevent Palestinian crowds from crossing into Israel, killing at least 13 people.

Lebanon on Monday also complained to the Security Council, against Israeli actions, which Lebanon considered to be a “hostile act,” in which “Israel violated Lebanese sovereignty and disregarded UN resolutions,” according to the Lebanese National News Agency.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implored all sides to exercise restraint.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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