Deadly Violence Kills Dozens, Injures Hundreds, in West Bank and Golan Heights

Dozens of Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured in two separate incidents today — one on the Syrian border and a second in the West Bank. Both incidents were related to Naksa Day (June 5), which is the anniversary of the day the Six-Day War with Israel began. Naksa means “defeat” or “setback” in Arabic.

Palestinian protesters in both places were greeted by Israeli military forces with gunfire and tear gas, although news reports differ quite a bit on the size of the crowds and on the number of Palestinians who were injured and killed.

The West Bank clashes took place near Qalandiyah, a city located between Jerusalem and Ramallah:

Near the West Bank city of Qalandiyah, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, IDF soldiers were confronted with hundreds of Palestinian protesters, firing tear gas and demonstration dispersal weaponry.

Channel 2 reported later Sunday that over 50 people were wounded in clashes with the Israeli military.

The Israelis fired tear gas and the delicately named “demonstration dispersal weaponry” at the Palestinians — not the other way around, as the mangled syntax in the first paragraph implies.

Ynet News (an online Israeli publication) reports that the IDF was “forced” to shoot and tear gas because the Palestinians were “rioting.” The quotes around forced and rioting are mine, not Ynet’s. The article also puts quotation marks around Naksa Day at each mention, without translating the Arabic word.

Dozens of Palestinians rioted near Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem Sunday, as part of the Palestinian “Naksa Day” protests marking the 44th anniversary of the Arab “downfall” in the Six Day War.

The Protesters were hoisting signs reading “A million shahids are marching in Jerusalem,” “The people want and end to occupation,” and “occupation is illegal,” and clashed with Border Guard forces, stoning them.

The troops used crowd-control measures to keep escalating further, and at some point had to resort to firing rubber bullets. One Border Guard officer suffered mild injuries.

CNN’s report on the Golan Heights incident is considerably more professional. The tone of the article is not particularly sympathetic toward the Palestinians, but at least they clearly identify opinionated claims from the Israeli side with direct quotes, instead of using words like “forced” and “riots” without those quotes, as if they were undisputed facts rather than one side’s spin.

Israeli troops fired on protesters trying to cross the fortified border between Syria and the occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, with Syrian authorities reporting more than a dozen dead and hundreds wounded.The protests came on the anniversary of the 1967 Middle East War, when Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria. The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately confirm any casualties, though a spokeswoman said that Israeli troops used tear gas and live ammunition on members of an “angered mob.”

“We warned them verbally (and) with warning shots into the air,” Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich told CNN. “And when these two options failed, we had to open fire selectively into the area, and this actually stopped those Syrians from reaching the Israeli-Syrian fence.”

The Syrian state news agency said 25 people were killed and more than 350 wounded in the protests, which continued past nightfall. Medics could be seen carrying the wounded to vehicles and driving them away from the border.

As many as 500 people took part in the demonstration, holding mid-day prayers on the Syrian side of the border, then crouching down behind ramparts that Israel constructed in response to similar demonstrations three weeks ago. The number later dropped to about 50, with protesters waving Palestinian and Syrian flags.

Reporters Nayla Razzouk and Mark Drajem of Bloomberg suggest a parallel between the Israeli treatment of Palestinian activists and the Syrian government’s crackdown on internal dissenters:

Israeli forces fired on a crowd marking the anniversary of the 1967 Middle East War by trying to enter from Syria, where human rights groups said Syrian troops killed 25 protesters in a village in the country’s north.

A general strike took place for the second day today in the Syrian city of Hama in mourning for dozens of people killed there by security forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad last week, according to the independent Web site Syrian Observatory, which is monitoring the unrest.

“The city is completely closed and the army has pulled out, but the people are scared” that the army may attack again, Mahmoud Merhi, the head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by telephone from Damascus.

Palestinian refugees and supporters attempted to breach the Israeli border of the Golan Heights from Syria, prompting Israeli troops to fire. Twenty-three people were killed and 350 injured, according to Syrian state-run television. Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich told CNN that Syria allowed the protest to reach the border in order to divert attention from its own internal unrest.

“Allowing the Palestinians to reach the fence with Israel is a useful distraction for Assad, who can’t stop the demonstrations against his regime,” Mordechai Kedar, a researcher at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies near Tel Aviv, said in a telephone interview.

That’s something I haven’t seen in any other major news source — and Bloomberg is not exactly a left-wing publication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook