Sun, June 05, 2011 | Jerusalem Post | By JPost.com staff and Yaakov Lappin | Edited by Crethi Plethi
Naksa Day: Clashes Erupt on Israel-Syria Border
Red Cross given access to wounded; IDF confirms injuries, not deaths; armed men seen on Syrian side of border; demonstrators still attempting to breach border; TV shows protesters carried away on stretchers.
Syrian television on Sunday said at least six protesters were killed and dozens were wounded along the Syria-Israel border in the Golan Heights near Majdal Shams, reportedly from IDF fire. An IDF spokesperson could not confirm if there were any deaths. The only information on deaths on the border were Syrian reports.
Channel 10 reported that the IDF allowed Red Cross teams access to the Syrian border area after several hours of clashes in order to evacuate wounded protesters and Channel 2 reported that demonstrators were attempting to breach the fence at several other points in the Golan Heights as well.
The “forces were left with no choice but to open fire towards the ground in an effort to deter further actions,” the IDF said in a statement. IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich accused Syria of “deliberately trying to divert the world’s attention from the bloodshed that is taking place inside Syria to the Israeli-Syrian border. There is no question about it, the policemen, the armed Syrian forces are looking back and not doing anything.”
Two armed men were identified near the border fence in Kunetra, on the Syrian side of the border where 200 to 300 demonstrators amassed, the IDF Spokesman told The Jerusalem Post, but there was no further official information about he identity of the gunmen, or their proximity to the border but a security official suggested that the men could be Syrian police or army forces.
Demonstrators arrived in at least eight buses before the protest began and came down from a hill known locally as “Shouting Hill” towards the ramparts Israeli forces constructed last month. According to the IDF spokesperson, around 150 people managed to cross to the Syrian side of the fence, entering a mined zone between the two fences in the Majdal Shams area.
“We issued warnings for them to stop advancing. When they continued, we fired warning shots in the air,” an IDF spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post. When the demonstrators continued toward the Israeli fence, they said, shots were fired at their lower bodies. “We know of 12 injuries,” she added.
IDF forces were sending Arabic-language messages through loudspeakers over the border, warning that anyone approaching the fence would be killed.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that there are “radical elements who are trying to breach [Israel’s] borders to mark the anniversary of the start of the Six Day War,” speaking at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We won’t allow them to do it.”
The Palestinian protests and marches on Israel’s borders commemorate the Palestinian “Naksa,” or “setback” in the 1967 Six Day War and are attempts to challenge Israel’s sovereignty.