Israeli Troops Fire At Protesters Breaching Borders
Violence erupted around Israel’s borders Sunday as thousands of Palestinian protesters tried to cross into the country from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least a dozen people and wounding more than 100 others. The protesters gathered at Maroun Ras, a Lebanese border village, and along the Golan Heights border with Syria. They were throwing rocks at soldiers and trying to force their way across.
The protests took place on the anniversary of Israel’s creation. Palestinians call the anniversary Nakba Day, which is Arabic for “catastrophe,” they remember it as the day 700,000 Palestinians were displaced. It was the first time Israel had been directly affected by the recent uprisings in the Arab world.
The New York Times reported:
Like those other protests, plans for this one spread over social media, including Facebook, but there were also signs of official support in Lebanon and Syria, where analysts said leaders were using the Palestinian cause to deflect attention from internal problems.
At the Lebanese border, Israeli troops shot at hundreds of Palestinians trying to force their way across. The Lebanese military said 10 protesters were killed and more than 100 were wounded. Israel said it was investigating the casualties.
In the Golan Heights, about 100 Palestinians living in Syria breached a border fence and crowded into the village of Majdal Shams, waving Palestinian flags. Troops fired on the crowd, killing four people. The border unrest could represent a new phase in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
In the West Bank, about 1,000 protesters carrying Palestinian flags and throwing stones and occasional firecrackers and gasoline bombs fought with Israeli riot troops near the military checkpoint between Ramallah and Israel. Scores were injured, local medical officials said.
In Gaza, when marchers crossed a security zone near the border, Israeli troops fired into the crowd, wounding dozens.
In Jordan and Egypt, government security forces thwarted protesters headed to the border.
The breach rattled the sense of security felt by many Israelis.
The Los Angeles Times reported:
Some analysts said Israel's military would need to reexamine its defense strategy to include not only a possible uprising by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, but also potential threats from the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries. Israeli analysts expressed concern that Palestinian refugees may have become emboldened by the so-called Arab Spring uprisings against longstanding autocratic regimes in Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria.
"A fear barrier was crossed today," said Israeli military analyst Yoav Limor on Israel's Channel 1 television station. "If before, such options were discussed in the local Palestinian context, then tomorrow it could happen with the Palestinian diaspora in the neighboring Arab countries."
Israeli officials blamed Syrian and Lebanese soldiers for failing to keep the protesters away from the border as they have in the past and accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of attempting to use the protests to distract attention from the popular uprising in his own country.
Independent Palestinian analyst Mouin Rabbani said Assad may have been trying to send a message to Israel and the international community about the chaos that could erupt in the region if his government collapses. "Syria could be saying, 'If we lose, you lose, too,' and this is a taste of what might happen," Rabbani said.
Similarly, Israel's use of deadly force against the protesters probably was intended to demonstrate to Arab neighbors that the Jewish state would not tolerate the spread of unrest across its borders. "They are saying that even though the Arab world might be changing, Israel is the same, and it's just as capable and not intimidated," Rabbani said.
Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the protests were advocating the destruction of Israel, not creating a Palestinian state alongside it.
“The leaders of these violent demonstrations, their struggle is not over the 1967 borders but over the very existence of Israel, which they describe as a catastrophe that must be resolved,” he said. “It is important that we look with open eyes at the reality and be aware of whom we are dealing with and what we are dealing with.”
Officials and analysts predicted that the broken down peace talks and plans to request the United Nations to declare Palestinian statehood in September, could cause a resurgence in violence to an area that's been relatively quiet for the past two years.
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