Syrian TV: 20 killed, 225 hurt in Naksa Day border protest

Hundreds of Palestinian rioters repeatedly try to infiltrate Israel in two locations on northern border; IDF repels protesters.

Syrian protesters approach the Israeli border 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Syrian protesters approach the Israeli border 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Hundreds of Palestinian rioters repeatedly tried to infiltrate Israel throughout Sunday in two locations on the Israeli-Syrian border, but were rebuffed by an IDF determined to prevent a repeat of 'Nakba' day scenes in which activists spilled into Israeli territory.
Syrian television claimed 20 activists were killed and 225 were wounded in the disturbances, although the claims could not be independently verified.
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"The responsibility for the incidents and the casualties falls on those carrying out these provocations, and on all those who encouraged them to act in this way," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
As night fell on Sunday, an unknown number of rioters encamped themselves in the area, raising the possibility of a drawn-out confrontation that could last days.
Early on Sunday morning, Palestinians from the suburbs of Damascus were bused to the Majdal Shams border area, and to the abandoned Syrian border town of Kunetra.
They amassed at the border without interference from Syrian troops, in what the IDF described as a provocation by Syrian dictator 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 1000 dollars by the Syrian regime to arrive at the border. The source also claimed that Syria has promised 10,000 dollars to the families of anyone killed in the disturbances.
Soon arriving at the Majdal Shams area, a group of some 150 activists broke away from the others and descended a steep hill on the Syrian side, advancing towards the Israeli border.
IDF soldiers shouted warnings in Arabic via loudspeakers asking the Palestinians to refrain from attempting to cross the international frontier, adding that those who would would were endangering their lives.
The activists ignored the calls, crossed the Syrian border fence and made their way towards an Israeli forward border fence erected by IDF engineers in recent weeks, entering a mined zone.
“When the demonstrators continued toward the Israeli fence, shots were fired at their lower bodies. We know of 12 injuries," an IDF spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post Thursday at noon.
Meanwhile, at Kunetra, a second infiltration attempt was underway.
Between 200 to 300 demonstrators amassed. In the area, and climbed on the roof of an abandoned cinema, from where they began hurling rocks at security forces.
Four land mines exploded on the Syrian side of the border, after the rioters threw Molotov cocktails, which exploded in a field, starting a fire which then set off the explosives.
The IDF was unaware of the number of casualties caused by the explosions.
Throughout the pitched battles, paramedics on the Syrian side of the border requested that the IDF grant them ceasefires to clear the wounded. The IDF agreed to the requests, but then observed activists exploiting the quiet to try and cut the border fence, bringing the truce to an end.
“The IDF has learned its lessons [from Nakba day] quickly,” said IDF Spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai. “This is an army that investigates itself and learns. We can see this [today],” he added.
Throughout the disturbances, two armed suspects were identified near the border fence in Kunetra, though their identity was not established.
On several occasions, waves of activists rolled over front-line ditches and approached the border, drawing fire from IDF forces overlooking the area.
An unprecedented escalation in the disturbances took place towards the evening hours, when dozens of Druse youths from the town of Majdal Shams on the Israeli side of the border began hurling large rocks and bricks at IDF forces on the border.
Israel Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the situation was generally quiet throughout the day within Majdal Shams until the evening hours, when a group of around 100 local protesters made their way down to the area where police were stationed near the Syria border fence and began throwing rocks at officers.
Rosenfeld said police immediately responded with tear gas and dispersed the crowds after around 20-25 minutes, making several arrests of locals in the process.
Rosenfeld said that after the protesters were dispersed police met with local leaders in Majdal Shams in order to calm the situation on the ground.
He added that no police were injured in the clashes with Majdal Shams locals.
As the sun set, the IDF made an effort to disperse the rioters once and for all, firing a barrage of tear gas at them, which succeeded in pushing the activists away from the border.
The IDF expressed satisfaction at Lebanon's decision to ban activists from approaching the Israeli border, a decision which led organizers in Lebanon to cancel their events. "In Lebanon, we have seen a show of sovereignty by the Lebanese army," Mordechai said.
A high-level Iranian delegation toured the border area in southern Lebanon on Thursday, Channel 10 reported.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas members dispersed a planned mass march towards the Erez border crossing, media reports said.