Israel Opens Fire on Pro-Palestinian Protesters, Killing More Than a Dozen
Potential new flashpoints in the unrest sweeping the Middle East have opened after Israel opened fire on pro-Palestinian protesters on its borders with Syria and Lebanon, killing more than a dozen people and drawing furious condemnation from the Syrian regime.
Protests erupted in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as well as on Israel's geo-politically sensitive northern borders, as Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops and police, and hundreds were injured.
Demonstrators commemorating Nakba day, marking the 1948 war in which hundreds of thousands of people became refugees after being forced out of their homes at the creation of Israel, were met with live gunfire, rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas.
Israel accused Syria of provoking the confrontations to divert attention from internal arrests, and said attempts to breach its borders were a provocation intended to exploit Palestinian nationalism in the wake of regional unrest. An Israeli military spokesman said the protests bore "Iran's fingerprints".
"We hope the calm and quiet will quickly return," said the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. "But let nobody be misled: we are determined to defend our borders and sovereignty."
Syria condemned Israel's "criminal activities". The foreign ministry called on the international community to hold Israel responsible for the deadly confrontation, Syria's state news agency Sana said.
Between four and 10 people were reportedly killed in or near the village of Majdal Shams, close to the Israeli-Syrian border. Ten were killed on the Lebanese border and 112 injured, according to the Lebanese army.
Witnesses said that Israeli troops had fired across the border at protesters throwing stones from within Lebanon, a move that could have serious repercussions and prompt further cross-border incidents.
Around 600 demonstrators marched on Qalandia, the main checkpoint between the West Bank and Jerusalem. In Gaza around 60 people were injured, and the Red Crescent said one person had died.
There was unrest in East Jerusalem after a 17-year-old Palestinian boy, shot in the stomach during clashes on Friday, died in hospital on Saturday. Riots were also reported in Arab towns in the Galilee, inside Israel. The Israeli authorities had expected trouble on the first Nakba day following the Middle East uprisings and had deployed 10,000 soldiers and police.