Israel founding day protests - 8 dead

2011-05-15 22:51
Lebanese security officials say four people in Lebanon were killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire at protesters who approached the border with Israel. (Mohammed Zaatari, AP)

Lebanese security officials say four people in Lebanon were killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire at protesters who approached the border with Israel. (Mohammed Zaatari, AP) (Mohammed Zaatari)

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Majdal Shams - Eight people were killed and more than 200 hurt on Sunday as Palestinians marched on Israel's borders with Lebanon, Syria and Gaza in a mass show of mourning over the 1948 creation of the Jewish state.

Tensions along the Israeli-Syrian frontier spiralled as thousands of protesters who massed on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights plateau tried to break through to the Israeli side, prompting the army to open fire.

Syria lashed out at Israel for opening fire on the protesters, warning that the Jewish state would bear full responsibility for its "criminal" actions.

A Druze doctor from Majdal Shams who rushed to the scene told AFP he saw at least two bodies, with local paramedics confirming the same toll, saying one had been shot in the head, and the second in the chest.

They also said had treated another 20 people for light to moderate injuries, with the Israeli army confirming that "dozens" had been injured.

Along the Lebanese border, Israeli gunfire killed six people and wounded another 71 as thousands of mainly Palestinian refugees demonstrated along the tense frontier, local medical sources said.

And along Gaza's northern border with Israel, 90 people were injured, five of them seriously, when troops opened fired as more than a thousand Palestinians marched on the Erez crossing.

At least half of the wounded were minors, medics said.

Syrian rioters crossed into Israel

The Israeli army issued a statement saying "hundreds of Syrian rioters" had crossed onto the Israeli side, and in response troops had "fired selectively" towards them, injuring an unspecified number.

Protesters in southern Lebanon had tried to cross the border into Israel, the statement added, saying troops had fired warning shots towards them.

During the two incidents, three army officers and 10 soldiers had been injured, it said, placing the blame for the violence squarely on the Damascus and Beirut.

Elsewhere, at least 29 others were injured as clashes broke out between stone-throwing Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces across annexed east Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Within the Palestinian territories, the vast majority of injuries occurred in northern Gaza, where troops opened fire as more than 1 000 people marched on the concrete border fence, chanting: "No to the occupation!" and "Revolution, revolution to liberate Palestine!"

Syria angrily denounced the Israeli actions.

"We firmly denounce the criminal Israeli actions against our people in the Golan Heights, Palestine and southern Lebanon that left several people dead and wounded," the Syrian foreign ministry said.

"Israel will have to bear full responsibility for its actions."

Wooden replica keys

During the day, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian man was killed when troops opened fired on an area east of Gaza City but medics said the incident was not related to the "nakba" protests.

Further south, more than 5 000 demonstrators also held a mass rally in the southern city of Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt, an AFP correspondent said.

They waved Palestinian flags and held up huge replica wooden keys to homes they fled or were expelled from during the Arab-Israeli war which accompanied the creation of the Jewish state.

Since Friday, Palestinians and Arab Israelis staged a series of events in the run-up to Sunday's anniversary, marking the anniversary of Israel's creation in 1948, in an event referred to in Arabic as the "nakba" or "catastrophe".

In the southern city of Hebron, 12 people were hit by rubber bullets fired by Israeli troops as an estimated 2 000 demonstrators held a protest, medical and security sources said, with clashes also reported in the nearby towns of Al-Arub, Beit Ummar and Bani Naim.

Disturbing the peace

And 17 people were taken to hospital in Ramallah after being hit by rubber bullets during heavy clashes near the Qalandiya crossing near annexed east Jerusalem, where thousands gathered for a protest, medical sources said.

In Jerusalem, police arrested 13 people for disturbing the peace as clashes erupted in several locations across the eastern sector of the city, pitting stone-throwing youths against police and border police in riot gear.

In Tel Aviv, a truck driven by a 22-year-old Arab Israeli ploughed into a bus and at least four cars, killing one person and injuring another five with police investigating whether the driver had been acting on nationalist motives.

The protests began on Friday and quickly turned deadly when a 16-year-old youth from Jerusalem was shot in the stomach during clashes in Silwan near the Old City.

He died from his wounds early on Saturday, with a relative telling AFP he had been shot by a Jewish settler in Silwan.

More than 760 000 Palestinians - estimated today to number 4.7 million with their descendants - were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict that accompanied the Jewish state's foundation.

Read more on:    lebanon  |  syria  |  israel  |  middle east peace

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