News / Middle East

    Israel Accuses Syria of Inciting Golan Violence

    Pro Palestinians protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli troops along the border between Israel and Syria near the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, Sunday, June 5, 2011
    Pro Palestinians protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli troops along the border between Israel and Syria near the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, Sunday, June 5, 2011
    Luis Ramirez

    Israel plans to file a complaint at the United Nations accusing Syria of inciting violence along its boundary with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  On Sunday, Israeli troops fired at pro-Palestinian demonstrators who tried to breach the fence. Syria says at least 23 people were killed.

    Israeli soldiers on Monday repaired the parts of the barbed wire that Israel said protesters cut as they tried to enter Israeli-controlled territory in the Golan Heights.

    A number of demonstrators continued to camp on the Syrian side of the fence Monday, but reports say Syrian police started blocking any more of them from approaching the barrier.

    Dead protesters

    Syrian television on Monday showed the funerals of the dead protesters.  A relative of one of the dead accused Israel of using disproportionate force.

    The mourner says Israeli snipers fired at unarmed demonstrators who used - in the mourner's words - "only stones and flags" to confront Israeli security forces.

    The demonstration was part of a larger series of protests Sunday that Palestinians held to mark the anniversary of Israel's 1967 war with Jordan, Egypt, and Syria that resulted in the Israeli capture of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula.

    Organizers said their strategy was to use nonviolent means. Some protesters said they hope to gain international support by demonstrating peacefully and letting Israel appear as the aggressor.

    Dispute over victims

    Israel countered Syrian reports that Israeli soldiers killed protesters during Sunday's violence in the Golan Heights.  The Israeli army says 10 people died in the boundary area -- but not as a result of Israeli gunfire.  

    An army official says protesters hurled firebombs that struck old Syrian landmines and caused them to explode - resulting in the deaths.

    Israeli officials defended their troops' use of live fire and said soldiers were instructed to shoot only at the feet of those who tried to breach the border fence.

    Did Syria incite protests?

    Speaking on Israeli radio, Defense Minister Ehud Barak accused Syria of inciting the demonstrations along the Golan fence to deflect attention from the Assad leadership's crackdown on Syrian anti-government demonstrators.

    He said the responsibility for the violence and loss of life falls on Syria, where he said 1,200 people have been killed in the last three months. Barak said Syria could be encouraging the unrest along the border because it diverts attention from the uprising at home.  He said Israel has no choice but to protect its border.

    May 15 protest

    The Golan Heights boundary had been tense but largely peaceful for decades until May 15 when demonstrators breached the fence and entered Israeli-held territory.  In that incident, Israeli forces also opened fire. At least four demonstrators were killed.

    Palestinian activists say they plan to hold more demonstrations in the months leading up to September, when leaders will seek full membership in the United Nations as an independent Palestinian state.   

    Palestinian leaders say they are pushing ahead with the plan out of frustration, following the collapse of peace talks with Israel last September.

    Video footage of clash

     

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