Israel: Nakba at Golan – walking with their eyes wide open into a Syrian trap?

Yesterday around 100 – 150 individuals crossed the fence separating Israeli occupied Golan and Syria. Israeli forces alerted to the possibility of a diversionary move by the Syrian regime on Nakba in the face of the ongoing uprising had taken the necessary precautions. Soldiers had been trained and equiped with anti-riot gear and in the early morning hours reinforcements were deployed in and around Majdal Shams. Some protesters sustained lighter injuries, but as a whole no serious injuries were reported. The protesters were returned to Syria with the aid of UNDOF.

This is what should have happened. This is not what happened. Instead the IDF and the minister of defence Ehud Barak, was taken by surprise. No preparations had been taken. As Haaretz reported – few troops are stationed at the area around Majdal Shams and they do not have access to non-lethal crowd dispersal or crowd control equipment. Around 100-150 individuals managed to cross the fence separating Israeli occupied Golan and Syria. Israeli soldiers fired and killed two. Failure. With this Israeli provided the Syrian regime with much needed diversion, as can be seen on the Syrian Arab News agancy (SANA) home page which added that 170 protesters were injured in this clash.

It is difficult to imagine that this demonstration by Palestinians living in Syria could take place without the approval and possibly support of the Syrian regime. So this might be what President Assad has been looking for – a means to rally ‘the troops’ against a common enemy and divert international pressure from, especially, Turkey, but also the EU.

The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement to that effect condemning “Israel’s criminal practices against the people in Golan, Palestine and South Lebanon which resulted in a number of martyrs and injured people…” and that “the international community hold Israel fully accountable for its practices”.

On 15 May this was put into practice during a demonstration outside the EU delegation in Damascus. According to SANA the demonstrators condemned (among other) the sanctions imposed. They also demanded that EU condemn Israel for the crimes, a they used live ammunition at demonstrators on Nakba day.


About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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