JERUSALEM — Palestine-Israel hostilities continue as Israeli forces fired at pro-Palestinian protesters who tried to breach the border on Syria.
A large number of protesters primarily made up of Palestinians coming from the Syrian refugee camps marched to the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in Syria. As some of the protesters crossed the trench and began attempting to attack the border fences near the towns of Majdal Shams, the Israeli soldiers began firing, killing 22 of the demonstrators and injuring 350. However, Israeli officials contest these numbers, saying that the statistics have been exaggerated. Nonetheless, this was the second breach attempt in three weeks, and the biggest bloodshed in the Golan Heights since the Israel-Syria war in 1973.
Even with the casualties and the injured protesters, the demonstrators believe that their attempt had been a success, considering that there were several who became outraged at Israel for their violent response to the unarmed protesters. Furthermore, their actions can lead to more pressure on the country to resume peace talks with Palestine, especially now when the communication between the two countries have become even more strained.
The protest was held on the anniversary of the start of the 1967 Middle East War, which was then followed by a large, coordinated assault by protesters who attacked Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank. Demonstrators also made an attempt to attack Egypt and Jordan, however, they were immediately stopped by the respective governments.
Lebanon and the Hamas government in Gaza were the ones that kept the protesters from breaking into their borders, while the West Bank saw a low turnout of demonstrators. Most of the forces were concentrated on Syria, where thousands of the protesters tried to force their way in.
Israel has rejected the idea of peace talks based on the 1967 lines. Furthermore, the country has not yet responded to the invitation to attend a peace conference in Paris. Because of the absence of these talks, Palestine officials are now planning to apply to the United Nations for international recognition for statehood this fall.
The protesters see the denial of having peace talks as justification for renewing the struggle between the two countries. The demonstrators, who have said that they are now becoming disillusioned due to the lack of development with the peace talks and the continued settlement of the Israel, said that they believe that their new strategies allow them to achieve something, and that they are planning on repeating their tactics again.
Israel, on the other hand, maintained that they have tried all nonlethal methods in order to do crowd control and only resorted to live fire when these failed. The country’s officials are concerned about being vilified in the situation. Nonetheless, the officials and a military spokeswoman of Israel have said that the protesters were warned not to approach the border and have used other riot dispersal means such as tear gas, which did nothing to deter their approach. It was only when the demonstrators reached the fence that the soldiers felt they had no choice, thus opening fire. Dan Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, asked, “What would any other country do if people from an enemy country were marching on its borders? We tried all other possible means to stop them.”
The role of Syria in the Israel-Palestine hostilities creates a quandary for Israel. While the countries remain technically in a state of war, Syria has previously kept the border quiet for 37 years. There are some who speculate that the reason why Syria allowed these protests to occur was because they wanted to divert attention from the antigovernment uprising happening within the country itself.