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14 Palestinians Killed, Hundreds Injured by Israeli Occupation Forces in the Nakba, Catasrophe, Day

May 15, 2011

14 said dead on Syrian, Lebanese borders by Israeli fire

Published today (updated) 15/05/2011 19:35 JERUSALEM, Maan, (AFP) --

As many as 14 were said killed by Israeli fire in incidents on the Syrian and Lebanese borders on Sunday, as Palestinians marked the 63rd anniversary of the expulsion from their homes.

Two people were killed and four critically hurt by the gunfire after protesters from Syria entered the occupied Golan Heights, a Druze doctor who tended them told AFP, while other reports said four had been killed.

Protesters from the Syrian Golan breached the border with the Israeli-controlled half of the plateau, prompting Israeli troops to fire in the air and use tear gas, Israeli defense sources said.

A statement from Israel's military said "forces fired selectively towards rioters who were targeting security infrastructure and some were injured as a result."

Staff at the local medical center in the Druze border town of Majdal Shams said one of the men was shot in the head and the other in the chest. They said they treated another 20 people with light to moderate injuries.

The protesters, part of the Syrian Druze community separated from their families when Israel occupied the southern half of the Golan heights in 1967, breached the border, crossing almost a kilometer of minefields at the border zone.

The United Nations patrols the area, which was illegally annexed by Israel. Border crossings remain closed between Israel and Syria, making visits between families separated by the border almost impossible.

The border breach was called "very serious and violent" by Israeli army spokeswoman Avital Liebowitz, while Syria issued a statement condemning the fire on residents from its south, and also labeled as "criminal" shots fired toward Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, saying Israel bore full responsibility for the deaths.

The army accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime of "organizing" the violence as a means to divert international attention from pro-democracy protests sweeping his country.

"Syrian authorities organized this violent incident in order to divert world opinion away from what is happening in their cities," army spokeswoman Leibovitz said.

"Syria is a police state," the official added. "Demonstrators do not randomly approach the border without the prior approval of the central government."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he would make a statement on the incident at 1500 GMT.

Channel 1 television reported that its correspondent in Majdal Shams, a Druze town on the Golan, said he had come across 30-40 infiltrators in its main square, some of who said they were Palestinians from Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus.

Local religious leaders escorted a number of the outsiders to the point where they crossed the frontier and sent them back they way they had they come, through a minefield, local residents told AFP.

The army sealed off the town and its immediate surroundings and carried out house-to-house searches for infiltrators, defense sources said.

Forces fire on refugees in Lebanon protests

Israeli gunfire killed ten people and wounded 112 others at the country's border with Lebanon, a medical source in southern Lebanon told AFP, revising an earlier toll.

Thousands of mainly Palestinian refugees demonstrated, a Lebanese security official said, calling for the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel, and condemning their expulsion from the are in 1948 when the State of Israel was created.

An Israeli military statement said "several rioters attempted to breach the border fence and to infiltrate into Israeli territory," noting that soldiers responded with "warning shots."

The statement held the governments of Lebanon and Syria "responsible for any violence or provocation towards Israel that emanates from their respective territories."

Israel-Palestinian violence erupts on three borders

By Haim Shafir

MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights | Sun May 15, 2011, 12:17pm EDT

(Reuters) -

Israeli troops shot Palestinian protesters who surged toward its frontiers with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, killing up to 13 people on the day Palestinians mourn the creation of the state of Israel. (They call it Nakba, Catastrophe, as they were evicted from their homeland by the Zionist invaders - Editor of

Israeli forces opened fire in three separate border locations to prevent crowds of demonstrators from crossing Israeli frontier lines, in the deadliest such confrontation in years.

The Lebanese army on the Lebanese frontier said 10 Palestinians died when Israeli forces shot at rock-throwing protesters to prevent them from entering the Jewish State.

Lebanese security sources said more than 100 people had been wounded in the shooting incident in the Israeli border village of Maroun al-Ras.

The Israel army said the Lebanese army had also used live ammunition in an attempt to hold back the crowds rushing the border fence.

Israel blamed a cynical provocation inspired by Iran, to exploit Palestinian nationalist feeling fueled by the popular revolts of the "Arab Spring" across the Middle East, and to draw attention from major internal unrest inside Syria, its ally.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped the confrontations would not escalate.

"We hope the calm and quiet will quickly return. But let nobody be misled: we are determined to defend our borders and sovereignty," Netnayahu said.

Syrian media reports said Israeli gunfire killed two people after dozens of Palestinian refugees infiltrated the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria, along a disputed border that has been largely tranquil for decades.

The Syrian foreign ministry condemned what it called Israel's "criminal activities."

On Israel's tense southern border with the Gaza Strip, Israeli gunfire wounded 82 demonstrators approaching the fence with the Hamas Islamist-run enclave, medical workers said. In a separate incident, Israeli forces said they shot a man who was trying to plant a bomb near the border. A body was later found.

In Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial hub, a truck driven by an Arab Israeli slammed into vehicles and pedestrians, killing one man and injuring 17 people.

Police were trying to determine whether the incident was an accident or an attack. Witnesses said the driver, who was arrested, deliberately ran amok with his truck in traffic.


A spokesman for the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Sami Abu Zuhri, called Sunday "a turning point in the Israeli-Arab conflict" that proved the Palestinian people and Arabs were committed to ending Israeli occupation.

Hezbollah condemned the "Israeli aggression on unarmed civilians in Maroun al-Ras and in the Golan, which constitutes a dangerous violation of human rights," said Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah who was participating at a pro-Palestinian protest in Maroun al-Ras.

"The resistance movement in Lebanon (Hezbollah) will continue to be an advocate for Palestinian national rights and calls on everyone to stand united in confronting Israeli occupation."

"What happened today in Maroun al-Ras and in the Golan is an embodiment of the will of the Palestinian people who are committed to the right of return."

Israeli security forces had been on alert for violence on Sunday, the day Palestinians mourn the "Nakba," or catastrophe, of Israel's founding in a 1948 war, when hundreds of thousands of their brethren fled or were forced to leave their homes.

A call had gone out on Facebook urging Palestinians to demonstrate on Israel's borders.

To the south, Egyptian forces arrested six protesters and blocked hundreds of others from marching to its border with Israel, but no frontier police appeared to be on hand in Syria.

"This appears to be a cynical and transparent act by the Syrian leadership to deliberately create a crisis on the border so as to distract attention from the very real problems that regime is facing at home," said a senior Israeli government official, who declined to be named.

"Syria is a police state. People don't randomly approach the border without the approval of the regime."

The border zones are protected by the 1949 Armistice Agreement signed by Israel and its Arab neighbors. A spokesman for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, set up on the Israeli-Syrian border after the 1967 Middle East war, said he had "no immediate information" about the rush on the border.

In the Druze village of Majdal Shams, on the Golan Heights captured by Israel from Syria in 1967, Mayor Dolan Abu Salah said between 40 and 50 Nakba demonstrators from Syria tore through the flimsy frontier fence.

Hundreds of protesters flooded the lush green valley that marks the border area, waving Palestinian flags. Israeli troops attempted to mend the breached fence, firing at what the army described as infiltrators.

"We are seeing here an Iranian provocation, on both the Syrian and the Lebanese frontiers, to try to exploit the Nakba day commemorations," said the army's chief spokesman, Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai.

Syria is home to 470,000 Palestinian refugees and its leadership, now facing fierce internal unrest, had in previous years prevented protesters from reaching the frontier area.


In the Israeli occupied West Bank, Palestinian youths and Israeli forces clashed for hours at the main checkpoint dividing the Palestinian administrative capital of Ramallah from Jerusalem, a constant flashpoint.

Palestinians hurled rocks and set ablaze tires and soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and tear gas to drive them away from the Qalandia checkpoint.

Several hundred protesters, some of whom were said they had come from Hebron in the southern West Bank and Jenin in the northern West Bank to join the protest.

Hamas spokesman Taher Al-Nono praised the "crowds we have seen in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon" as evidence of "the imminent victory and return to the original homes as promised by God."

U.S.-brokered Peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down last year and no new negotiations are in the offing, with the U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell announcing his resignation on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Jeffrey Heller, Dan Williams and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Tom Perry in Ramallah, Yara Bayoumy in Beirut and Laila Bassam; Writing by Douglas Hamilton; editing by Crispian Balmer and Matthew Jones)



Israel's Netanyahu vows to defend borders

May 15, 2011, 11:49 AM EDT


Israel's prime minister says he will vigorously defend his country's borders after a mass infiltration from Syria.

In a televised address Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu said he hopes calm will be quickly restored.

But he said, "Nobody should be mistaken. We are determined to defend our borders and sovereignty."

Hundreds of Palestinians stormed across the Syrian border into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights earlier Sunday. The border breach set off several hours of violent clashes, leaving at least four people killed.

There were also deadly clashes along the borders of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.


 Israeli troops clashed with Arab protesters along three hostile borders on Sunday, leaving as many as 12 people dead and dozens wounded in an unprecedented wave of violence marking the anniversary of the mass displacement of Palestinians surrounding Israel's establishment in 1948.

In the most serious incident, the Israeli military said thousands of protesters approached Syria's border with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. It said hundreds of people burst through the border, and soldiers opened fire to stop them. Dozens were wounded and six were reported killed.

As Israel's prime minister gathered his top advisers for an emergency meeting, officials accused Syria of fomenting the violence in an attempt to divert attention from the deadly crackdown on weeks of protests against the rule of President Bashar Assad.

"The Syrian regime is intentionally attempting to divert international attention away from the brutal crackdown of their own citizens to incite against Israel," said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman.

Deadly clashes also took place along Israel's nearby northern border with Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip, near Israel's southern border.

The unrest came as the Palestinians marked the "nakba," or "catastrophe," the term they use to describe the uprooting they suffered at the time of Israel's founding on May 15, 1948.

On Facebook and other websites, activists had urged Palestinians and their supporters in neighboring countries to march on the border with Israel as part of nakba activities. Security officials tried to block such moves for fear of violence.

In Egypt, the army set up at least 15 checkpoints - guarded by tanks and armored vehicles - on the road between the Egyptian town of El-Arish and the Gaza border city of Rafah, turning back all who were not residents of the area.

In the fighting over Israel's creation, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted, and the dispute over the fate of the refugees and their descendants, now numbering several million, remains a key issue in the Mideast conflict.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war, and Syria demands the area back as part of any peace deal. Despite hostility between the two countries, the border has been quiet since the 1973 Mideast war.

Israeli TV channels broadcast scenes, taken from Arab stations, of what appeared to be thousands of people gathering along the Syrian border with the Golan, with large crowds throwing objects at the fence. Dozens of people could be seen cutting through the fence and storming across to the Israeli side.

In a statement, the military said "thousands of Syrian civilians" breached the border.

"IDF forces opened fire in order to prevent the violent rioters from illegally infiltrating Israeli territory, a number of rioters have infiltrated and are violently rioting in the village. From initial reports there are dozens of injured that are receiving medical care in a nearby hospital," the statement said.

Israeli officials confirmed two of those who crossed the Syrian border were dead on the Israeli side, and as many as four were reported dead in Syrian territory.

The protesters were believed to be Palestinians who live in refugee camps in Syria. Israel's Channel 2 TV interviewed one of those who crossed, who identified himself as a resident of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. "I am Palestinian from Nazareth," a town in northern Israel, the man told the station.

Channel 2 showed footage, taken by a resident of the Golan border village of Majdal Shams, of what it said was a pro-Palestinian protest walking through the streets of the town. At late afternoon, Israeli military officials said about 100 people had been caught and were being sent back to Syria. It was not known how many remained on the loose.

"The residents are in shock, they had no idea this was going to happen," Dolan Abu Salah, mayor of Majdal Shams, told Channel 10 TV. He said the town's residents, members of the Druse Arab sect, were neutral and did not want to get involved.

About 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the west, Israeli troops clashed with a large crowd of Lebanese demonstrators who approached the border. The military said it opened fire when protesters tried to damage the border fence. Lebanese security officials reported four dead.

It was the most serious violence along the volatile border since Israel fought Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas during a monthlong war five years ago.

The shooting erupted at the tense border village of Maroun el-Rass, which saw some of the fiercest fighting in 2006. Thousands of Palestinian refugees had traveled to the village in buses adorned with posters that said: "We are returning." Many came from the 12 crowded refugee camps in Lebanon where some 400,000 Palestinian refugees live.

"Israel may be 63 years old today but its days are numbered," said Abbas Jomaa, 50, who was carrying his 4-year-old son on his shoulders and holding a Palestinian flag. "Sooner or later we will return."

Hundreds of Lebanese soldiers, U.N. peacekeepers and riot police deployed heavily in the area, taking up positions along the electric border fence and patrolling the area in military vehicles. Young Hezbollah supporters wearing yellow hats and carrying walkie-talkies organized the entry to the village and handed out Palestinian flags.

In other violence, Palestinian medics also said two people were killed and 40 others were wounded in a demonstration in the Gaza Strip near the heavily fortified border with Israel. Demonstrations were also reported in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Inside Israel, police were on high alert for disturbances among the country's large Arab minority. In a reflection of the jitters, a deadly traffic incident involving an Arab truck driver in Tel Aviv set off fears that an attack had been carried out.

The truck plowed through a crowded street, crashing into a bus, several cars and pedestrians, killing one and injuring 16 others. Police said the 22-year-old driver claimed it was an accident, but said they were still investigating.

"Based on the devastation and debris, we're still examining if it was carried out deliberately," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.


Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Maroun al-Rass, Lebanon, and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

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