domingo, 5 de junio de 2011

Golan: Israel troops fire on pro-Palestinian protesters

  
Israeli soldiers have opened fired on pro-Palestinian protesters in Syria as they marched on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Israel had vowed to prevent a repeat of a similar march last month, in which hundreds of people had managed to breach the border fence.
Unconfirmed reports on Syrian state TV said 14 people had been killed and more than 200 wounded.
The protesters were marking the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Mid-East war.
Ahead of Sunday's march, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not allow "extremists" to breach Israel's borders.
"I have instructed our security forces to act with determination and restraint in order to protect our sovereignty our borders, towns and citizens," he said at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
But this did not deter several hundred demonstrators - Palestinians and their Syrian supporters - from moving on the razor-wired fencing and freshly dug trenches close to the frontier village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights at around noon.
Many carried Palestinian flags and threw rocks and rubbish over the fence, the Associated Press reports.
The border on the Golan Heights at the town of Majdal Shams lies in a valley between two hill tops, one in Israel and one in Syria.
At noon, dozens of Syrian protesters began to edge down the slope in the blazing sunshine towards the newly-dug trenches and freshly-laid coils of razor wire that mark the frontier.
The demonstrators quickly found themselves pinned down by live gunfire from Israeli army units who said they began shooting at the protesters' legs only after issuing warnings in Arabic and firing shots in the air to disperse the crowd.
Israel's military said its soldiers shouted warnings in Arabic at the protesters and fired warning shots in the air, before aiming at the legs of those who had reached the fence.
An Israeli military spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post they were aware of 12 injuries.
Another military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, told reporters: "This is an attempt by the Syrian regime to divert the world's attention from the Syrian bloodshed that has been taking place in recent weeks."
She added that Israeli forces were better able to stop border protests now than they were last month as they had since prepared "for a variety of operation scenarios".
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 war, along with other territories including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The anniversary is known in Arabic as the Naksa, or "setback".
On 15 May, tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched on the borders with Israel, in the Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
They were marking the 63rd anniversary of Nakba, which in Arabic means "catastrophe" - when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes amid the fighting after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
At least 12 people were killed by Israeli soldiers during the 15 May demonstrations, which at one point saw hundreds manage to cross into the Golan Heights.