Syrian media says four killed, over a dozen wounded after hundreds attempt to storm Israeli border; protestors: We'll either die for Allah or return to our occupied land
Ynet reporters Latest Update: 06.05.11
Despite reports suggesting the mass rallies planned in Syria and Lebanon to mark "Naksa Day" – the 44th anniversary of the Arab "downfall" in the Six Day War – were cancelled, some 500 people gathered Sunday on the Syrian side of the northern border.
According to reports, around noon, about 150 protesters made their way to the international border fence and began stoning IDF troops and attempting to cut through the fence.
IDF forces called on the demonstrators to cease their progress, before firing warning shots in mid-air. Once those were ignored as well, the troops fired at the lower extremities of several major dissidents inflaming the crowds.
Unconfirmed reports by Syrian media suggest four people were killed and about a dozen others injured, allegedly from IDF sniper fire. Red Cross Ambulances evacuated the injured.
Syrian medical officials told Damascus TV that the Israeli soldiers "are shooting live rounds and aiming for the abdomen, chest and head."
The IDF has not confirmed any information about casualties.
The entire parameter has been declared a restricted military zone. The military is broadcasting warnings in Arabic for the demonstrators – who have yet to reach the border-adjacent minefield – to stay away from the barbed wire fence.
A corresponding rally of about 400 people, mostly Druze and reporters, is taking place on the Israeli side of the border.
IDF and police forces have increased deployment across all sectors ahead of "Naksa Day." The deployment includes tanks, jeeps and infantry forces. A military source said that "the tension on the border is palpable."
Ali Younis, head of the Syrian Prisoners Committee, who was among the protesters, told Syrian television that "the Israeli soldiers are using tear gas and live rounds.
"The terrorist Zionist entity is using savage means against boys, just like they do in the prisons. Despite all of this, our youth is not afraid. The moment of liberation and return to the Golan in close."
The IDF reported that a riot also broke out near the Quneitra Crossing. IDF forces fired warning shots at them as well, reporting hitting several.
Military officials noted that Syrian security forces were doing nothing to stop the demonstrators from trying to cross the border illegally.
The defense establishment issued adamant warnings saying it will not allow any illegal entry to Israel by protesters. Forces deployed across the northern borders have been issued special crowd-control measures, and are under orders to open fire – if all else fails.
IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai said that "the Syrian government and military are helpless to stop what is going on. I hope this is not an attempt by the Syrian regime to divert international attention from what in is going on in the country."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed "Naksa Day" in Sunday's Cabinet meeting, saying that "Unfortunately, there are radical elements around us that are trying to breach our borders and threaten our citizens.
"We have instructed security forces to exercise restraint, but still secure the borders," he said.
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