Soldiers, Protesters Remain at Golan Heights Following Clash

Posted June 6th, 2011 at 6:30 am (UTC-5)
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Israeli soldiers and dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters remained Monday on opposite sides of the border between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, a day after deadly clashes there.

The Israeli military on Monday disputed Syrian state media reports that 20 people were killed and more than 325 wounded when Israeli troops fired at protesters who attempted to cross a border fence.

The military called the death toll “exaggerated.” A spokesman said about 10 people were killed by landmines that exploded when protesters threw firebombs.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he has deep concern about the situation. A spokesman said Mr. Ban condemns the use of violence and has called on all sides to use restraint.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said Israeli forces were left with no choice but to open fire at the feet of dozens of protesters, after dozens of Syrians continued to approach the border following verbal warnings and later warning shots in the air.

Israeli officials accused Syrian authorities of permitting Sunday's disturbance in order to deflect international attention from their bloody suppression of the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's authoritarian rule. The Syrian border cannot be approached without government compliance.

The protests marked 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, as well as the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in just six days of fighting.

Israel returned Sinai to Egypt under a 1979 peace deal, and withdrew from Gaza in 2005.