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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid