Sunday, May 15, 2011

Clashes along Israeli borders leave 12 dead, 200 wounded in protest against birth of Israeli state

Clashes between pro-Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces erupted along Israel's borders Sunday, leaving at least 12 dead on a Palestinian mourning day marking the birth of the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried what he called "violent demonstrations" aimed at undermining Israel's existence.

"We hope for the peace and restfulness to return quickly, but no one should be mistaken -- we are determined to defend our borders and our sovereignty," Netanyahu said.

The conflicts broke out on "Nakba Day." Nakba -- Arabic for "catastrophe" -- marks the period when more than 700,000 Arabs were displaced from their homes during the fighting following the creation of Israel in 1948.

Two protesters were killed and 170 were wounded when fighting broke out in the Golan Heights area, the Syrian Arab News Agency said. And at least 10 were killed and 112 others were injured in clashes along the border with Lebanon, Lebanon's state news agency reported.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops fired on demonstrators who were illegally crossing the borders from Lebanon and Syria and damaging "security infrastructure." But Syrian and Lebanese officials criticized what they said were Israeli attacks, state media reported.

Israel's military accused Syria of inciting a crisis to divert attention from its own clampdown on anti-government demonstrations.Ten Israeli soldiers and three officers were injured in the clashes, the Israel Defense Forces reported.

The Israeli military also was attempting to push back demonstrators near the Gaza border, where medical sources said at least 70 people had been injured. Large clashes broke out between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians near a checkpoint that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem as well. (read more)