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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora