Sun, June 05, 2011 | Edited by Crethi Plethi
Naksa Day Clashes: U.S. says “Israel has right to defend itself”
The United States said Sunday Israel has the right to defend itself, just as every sovereign nation although it is “deeply troubled” over clashes on the Israel-Syria border that resulted in deaths, and called for calm on both sides.
“We call for all sides to exercise restraint. Provocative actions like this should be avoided. Israel, like any sovereign nation, has a right to defend itself,” the State Department said in a statement.
“We are deeply troubled by events that took place earlier today in the Golan Heights resulting in injuries and the loss of life,” the statement added.
Hundreds of protesters rushed towards the ceasefire line on Sunday and tried to infiltrate Israel in two locations, cutting through barbed wire to enter the Golan Heights in a repeat of demonstrations last month on Nakba Day. The rioters were rebuffed by an IDF determined to prevent a repeat of ‘Nakba’ day scenes in which activists spilled into Israeli territory.
Syrian state media reported that up to 20 people were killed and more than 220 wounded. The Israeli military said it was aware of 12 casualties and the Syrian claims could not be independently verified.
“Despite numerous warnings, both verbal and later warning shots in the air, dozens of Syrians continue to approach the border and IDF (Israel Defense Forces) forces were left with no choice but to open fire towards the feet of protesters in efforts to deter further actions,” an Israeli army spokesman said.
“The responsibility for the incidents and the casualties falls on those carrying out these provocations, and on all those who encouraged them to act in this way,” said Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
As the sun set, the IDF made an effort to disperse the rioters once and for all, firing a barrage of tear gas at them, which succeeded in pushing the activists away from the border. An unknown number of rioters encamped themselves in the area and the protestors said they were planning to stage a sit-down opposite the border throughout the night.
The Reform Syria opposition website said on Sunday that the ‘Naksa’ protesters were poor farmers who were paid 1000 dollars by the Syrian regime to arrive at the border. The source also claimed that Syria has promised 10,000 dollars to the families of anyone killed in the disturbances, the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
The IDF expressed satisfaction at Lebanon’s decision to ban activists from approaching the Israeli border, a decision which led organizers in Lebanon to cancel their events. A high-level Iranian delegation toured the border area in southern Lebanon on Thursday, Channel 10 reported.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas members dispersed a planned mass march towards the Erez border crossing, media reports said.