IDF prepared for renewal of activity on Syrian border

Some 100 protesters remain at Kuneitra, Majdal Shams following Naksa Day attempts to infiltrate Israel; IDF rejects Syrian claims of 23 dead.

IDF Syria Border 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF Syria Border 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF continued its increased presence along the border with Syria on Monday as some 100 demonstrators continued to linger at both Kuneitra and Majdal Shams following repeated attempts to infiltrate the border on Sunday as part of Naksa Day protests, Army Radio reported.
While the protesters were not attempting to cross the border on Monday morning, the IDF remained prepared for a renewal of activity. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the IDF is prepared for the possibility that protesters will continue to demonstrate at the border.
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Syrian Health Minister Wael al-Halki claimed 23 activists were killed, and 350 were wounded, in the clashes to commemorate the Palestinian “Naksa,” or “setback” of the 1967 Six-Day War on Sunday, although the numbers could not be verified. The IDF rejected the reports of 23 deaths as "exaggerated," Army Radio reported on Monday.
Barak told Israel Radio that he believed the death count was under 20.
The Army said that at least eight protesters who died in Naksa Day border clashes were killed by land mines that exploded on the Syrian side of the border, after the rioters threw gasoline bombs, which exploded in a field, starting a fire that then set off the mines.
An IDF official said that it was clear the Syrian government gave the green light for the protesters to move toward the border, and contrasted this with the situation on Sunday in Lebanon, where the border was quiet.
“One can only suppose that there was a decision taken in Syria to exploit the situation to change the subject from what is going on inside Syria,” the official said. The official also asked whether the Palestinians feel comfortable “being used as a propaganda tool by an authoritative government butchering its own people.”
On Sunday, protesters massed at the border without interference from Syrian troops, in what the IDF described as a provocation by President Basher Assad that was designed to distract world attention away from the ongoing slaughter of protesters in Syria by Assad’s troops.
The Reform Syria opposition website said on Sunday that the “Naksa” protesters were poor farmers who were paid $1,000 by the Syrian regime to come to the border. The source also claimed that Syria has promised $10,000 to the families of anyone killed.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set the guidelines on how to deal with the protests, telling the cabinet that “there are extremist elements around us who are trying to break through our borders and threaten our community and our citizens. We will not allow them to do so.
“I’ve instructed the security forces to act with determination, with maximum restraint – but with determination to maintain our sovereignty, our borders, our communities and our citizens,” he said.
Yaakov Lappin and Herb Keinon contributed to this report