Israeli Troops Fire at Protesters on Golan; Syria Reports 14 Dead

Posted June 5th, 2011 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Israeli troops on Sunday fired at pro-Palestinian protesters who tried to rush the barbed-wire fence between Syria and the Israeli-held Golan Heights. Syrian state media report that 14 protesters were killed, scores more wounded.

Among those reported killed were a woman and child.

The protesters were marking the 44th anniversary of the Arab defeat in the 1967 Middle East war, defying Israeli warnings to stay clear of the boundary fence. Israel captured the Golan from Syria in that conflict.

The Israeli military accused Syrian authorities of instigating Sunday's disturbance to deflect attention from their crackdown on a popular uprising.

Israeli officials say they were determined to prevent a repeat of last month's deadly demonstrations during which thousands of Palestinians stormed Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon. Those protests were on the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel.

There were also protests by Palestinians Sunday in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Hundreds demonstrated at the Qalandia checkpoint near Ramallah where Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Sunday's demonstrations and those that occurred last month are part of a campaign by Palestinian activists leading up to September when the Palestinian leadership plans to seek United Nations membership as an independent state.

In another development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is considering an initiative by the French government to revive peace talks with the Palestinians. He told his Cabinet he first wants to discuss the proposal with the United States.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who visited both Israel and the West Bank last week, has suggested that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators attend a peace conference in Paris at the end of next month. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the proposal on Saturday.