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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs