MIDDLE EAST: Deadly violence in Israel, Syria and Lebanon as Palestinians mark Nakba
Bloody face-offs between Israeli Defense Forces and hundreds of protesters on the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba, which marks the displacement of Palestinians with the creation of Israel in 1948, has left at least eight people dead and dozens wounded, according to Reuters, the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV (link in Persian) and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Demonstrations erupted along Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon, as well as in Israel and the Palestinian territories.Palestinian refugees from the Yarmuk camp in Damascus as well as several other camps clashed with the Israeli military in Majdal Shams, near the disputed Golan Heights.
Violence that erupted in Maroun al-Ras, along the southern Lebanese border, left at least four dead and 15 wounded, reported pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera.
Demonstrations commemorating Nakba, or "the day of catastrophe," break out annually. But this year's were particularly well-attended. Demonstrators excercised rare boldness in confronting Israeli security forces.
Some have speculated that Palestinians have been inspired by popular and mostly peaceful uprisings across the Middle East. But many also wonder whether Syria, which is facing a broad challenge to the rule of Bashar Assad, may have encouraged allies in the Palestinian community to provoke Israel to take the focus off its own violent suppression of protests.
“Syrian regime is intentionally attempting to divert intl attention from their brutal crackdown of their own civilians,” a representative of the Israeli Defense Forces, Afikhay Adrai, wrote on his official Twitter page. In the Palestinian village and refugee camp of Qalandia, between Jerusalem and Ramallah and known for being a symbol of the Palestinian struggle, some demonstrators fled from tear gas as IDF personnel made arrests.
The Palestinian Red Crescent told Al-Jazeera that Israeli tank artillery injured 65 Palestinians in Bet Hanun, where demonstrators were calling for the right of return and chanting, “The people want to end the occupation.”
Adrai wrote on Twitter: “Neither lebanese nor syrian armies taking any measures to prevent/reduce violence at riot flash points on their borders with Israel.”
-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut
Photo: Palestinian children carry flags as they commemorate Nakba near the port city of Sidon in southern Lebanon on May 14, 2011. Credit: Ali Hashisho / Reuters