IDF preparing for Al-Quds Day riots at borders, W. Bank

Military sources say troops will remain in Golan Heights as internet organizers continue efforts to organize final "Naksa Day" event.

Police remove protesters near Baram Forest 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police remove protesters near Baram Forest 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The IDF will be on high alert along the borders with Syria and Lebanon, as well as in the West Bank on Tuesday amid concern that Palestinians will launch large protests in conjunction with Al-Quds Day – Jerusalem Day – marking Israel’s capture of the capital in 1967.
IDF sources said that troops will remain in place on the Golan Heights on the outskirts of the Druse village of Majdal Shams, where there were violent attempts to infiltrate Israel on Sunday and 24 Syrian-Palestinians were killed, according to Syrian media reports.
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On Monday, the IDF said the Syrian government was purposely exaggerating the death toll in an effort to shift its people’s focus away from President Bashar Assad’s deadly crackdown on opposition inside his country.
The Northern Command identified between 8 and 10 protesters who were killed when a gasoline bomb they threw set a minefield on fire, causing the premature detonation of mines. The Red Cross was also unable to confirm the Syrian media reports.
Internet organizers are continuing efforts to bring Palestinians to the streets on Tuesday, the last day in a three-day “Naksa Day” commemoration that began on Friday and continued on Sunday.
The Facebook group “Countdown to the Third Palestinian Intifada” – which has amassed 379,000 followers, or “likes” – has designated Tuesday as the “Day of Allegiance to Jerusalem” and called on supporters to march on the capital’s Al-Aksa Mosque in a display of loyalty to the city.
The IDF’s concern is that Palestinian protesters in Syria will try to turn the border near Majdal Shams into the scene of “regular” demonstrations, similar to the weekly protests that are held in the West Bank villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin against construction of the security barrier.
“We are prepared for this possibility and for now we will keep troops there on a permanent basis,” one IDF source said.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz visited the border area on Monday and said the military would stay ready amid predictions that demonstrations on the scale of Sunday’s violence would continue.
“We must maintain a high level of alert and be prepared,” Gantz said.
“We are prepared to deal with every obstacle and to activate our defenses against possible terrorist threats and against mass attempts to cross our borders.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that he had ordered the IDF to continue to operate with resolve and determination to prevent breaches of the country’s borders and sovereignty.
“There is an attempt to minimize the harm done to civilians but in the end, the protesters are the ones who should be held responsible for these provocations for encouraging and sending people to them,” Barak said.
While police will be on high alert in Jerusalem, both Arab and left-wing activists said they were unaware of any protests planned in the capital on Tuesday, despite Internet plans to march on the Aksa Mosque.
Activists had similar plans on Sunday, but marchers trying to enter Jerusalem from the Kalandiya checkpoint were turned back just meters past the checkpoint, and the march degenerated into skirmishes between approximately 250 Palestinians and the army along the Jerusalem-Ramallah highway.
In the clashes, one policeman and 40 demonstrators were wounded.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby dismissed the chances of a march from Kalandiya successfully reaching the capital, on Tuesday or any day.
“We have the army in front of us, and the army certainly knows how to deal with this situation,” he said on Monday. “So far, [the Naksa demonstrations] haven’t caught on in Jerusalem. If they do develop here, we will do everything necessary to contain it.”
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.