News / Middle East

US Criticizes Syria for 'Cynical' Golan Heights Incident

Palestinian mourners burn an Israeli flag during a funeral procession of three Palestinians who killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire on Sunday at protesters at Syria's border with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, May 16 2011
Palestinian mourners burn an Israeli flag during a funeral procession of three Palestinians who killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire on Sunday at protesters at Syria's border with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, May 16 2011

The United States on Monday accused Syria of inciting Palestinian unrest along the Israeli-held Golan Heights to divert attention from its violent crackdown on protests.  The State Department called it a "cynical" ploy by the beleaguered Damascus government.

U.S. officials say they regret the casualties in Sunday’s clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protestors in Lebanon, along the Golan Heights, and in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Crowds of Palestinians, marking the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s founding, tried to force their way across Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and along the dividing line between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria.

At least 13 people were killed by Israeli gunfire, including at least three along the Golan boundary, which has been quiet almost the entire time since Israel captured the area in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Golan incident followed a published warning last week by a Syrian businessman with close ties to the Damascus leadership, Rami Makhlouf, that instability for Syria, which has been convulsed by anti-government protests, would mean instability for Israel too.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said it is apparent that the Golan incident was an attempt to distract attention from legitimate protests by the Syrian people.

“We do think that this is an effort by the Syrian government to play a destabilizing role," said State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner. "It’s clearly an effort by them to take the focus off the situation that’s happening right now in Syria.  And it’s a cynical use of the Palestinian cause to encourage violence along its border as it continues to repress its own people within Syria.”

Toner spoke after Jordan’s King Abdullah began a Washington visit by meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and said that Arab political turmoil notwithstanding, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the “core” problem issue in the region.

Scott Lasensky, a Middle East expert at the United States Institute of Peace, says Syria might be exploiting the situation, but that does not diminish the importance of the Palestinian problem.

“Even if that’s the case, or likely, or a possibility, one should not be so cynical as to dismiss the Palestinian issue as being unimportant," said Lasensky. "It is a very important question; it has been for a long time.  It remains the core of the Israeli-Arab dispute.  And I think for people who are watching the ‘Arab Spring’ or the 'Arab Awakening,' as some have called it, unfold in these weeks and month, it would be wrong-headed to ascribe the agenda across the Arab world as entirely an internally-driven one.”

Lasensky noted that the violence on the Israel anniversary precedes a major policy speech by U.S. President Barack Obama on the Middle East planned for Thursday.

He cited a “vacuum” in Middle East peace efforts that began last September, when U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israeli and the Palestinians broke down, almost as soon as they were convened by former U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

Lasenksy said that vacuum is being filled by a unilateral effort by Palestinians to have their prospective state endorsed by the United Nations, and violence on the ground as seen by Sunday’s events.

In his comments here, State Department spokesman Toner said Israel, like any other country, has a right to secure its borders.  But he appealed for restraint by all sides, while commending Palestinian security forces for helping keep order in the West Bank.

 

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs