Four reported killed in Israeli-Syrian border clashes

Four reported killed in Israeli-Syrian border clashes

Israeli soldiers opened fire on Syrians and Palestinians, who again tried to breach the Israeli-controlled border on the occupied Golan Heights Sunday, DPA reported.

The Israeli military could not confirm the Syrian television reports of four protesters killed and 10 injured.

It said the army opened fire, to deter dozens who tried to cross the border coming down from what is know as Shouting Hill, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

A column of dozens of protesters, carrying Palestinian flags, could be seen walking toward the border.

Israeli soldiers could also be seen lying on their stomachs on an earth rampart with their guns ready, on the Israeli-controlled side of the border.

An army spokesman in Tel Aviv, however, later said the soldiers had been ordered to cease fire.

The soldiers called over loudspeakers on the protesters to stay clear of the border.

"Despite numerous warnings, both verbal and warning shots in the air, dozens of Syrians continued to approach the border and IDF (Israel Defence Forces) forces were left with no choice, but to open fire toward the feet of the protesters in an effort to deter further actions," the army said in a statement.

The clashes come as Palestinians and other Arabs mark the outbreak of the 1967 war, an event they call the "Naksa," or set-back.

They come exactly three weeks after the May 15 "Nakba" (catastrophe) day events when tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and Syria took Israel by surprise by marching up to its borders.

Israel opened fire then on hundreds who breached the borders, killing four in Syria and 10 in Lebanon. Over 300 were injured.

The border storming was a symbolic, unprecedented act of defiance, by Palestinian refugees who said they wanted to reach the homes their parents and grandparents had fled in the war that erupted after Israel was established in 1948.

In the May 15 protests, dozens of protesting Palestinian refugees from Syria had made it to Druze village of Madj al-Shams, on the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights, near the border, and one had even succeeded in reaching Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army was Sunday put on alert along the border with Lebanon and the border between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights with Syria, to avoid a repeat of the May 15 events.

"The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) is ready for every eventuality," an army spokesman in Tel Aviv told the German Press-Agency dpa.

While Lebanon had declared its southern border area a closed military zone since Thursday to avoid a new escalation, Syria, plagued by internal unrest, had not taken a similar step.

Thousands of Israeli policemen were deployed Sunday throughout throughout Israel, including in the north, where they set up roadblocks, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, to avoid a repeat of infiltrators reaching deep into the country.

In the West Bank, Palestinians were planning to stage a noontime march toward the Israeli military checkpoint of Qalandiya, north of Jerusalem on the road to the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

"After the events on May 15 (Nakba Day), Palestinian grassroots activists and political forces are determined to keep the momentum up," said one grassroots group organizing the Qalandiya march.

Palestinians have traditionally marked both the 1948 and 1967 wars with protests, but this year, they have become more intense, as organizers used social network sites on the internet to mobilize support. They have been inspired by the protests across the Arab world.

The Six-Day War broke out on June 5. By the time a ceasefire was called on June 10, Israel had captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt.

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