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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Nakba: at least 20 demonstrators gunned down by Israeli armed forces

by Monde - le 15 Mai 2011

Nakba: at least 20 demonstrators shot down by Israeli armed forces

Translated Friday 27 May 2011, by Shelagh Rothero and reviewed by Derek Hanson

On Sunday 15th May, Israeli troops opened fire on crowds who were demonstrating on the frontiers between the Gaza strip, the Lebanon and Syria on the occupied Golan Heights. At least 12 people died. This took place during rallies held in remembrance of the 63rd anniversary of ‘Nakba’, which, in the eyes of the Palestinians, represents the ‘catastrophic’ creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The worst incidents occurred on the Golan Heights, the Syrian plateau annexed by Israel. According to the Israeli army, thousands of demonstrators were amassed close to the frontier. At least six people were killed and many more wounded. According to Israeli commanders, two demonstrators died on the Israeli side and information received suggested that there were at least four deaths on the Syrian side.

The demonstrators were probably Palestinians living in Syrian refugee camps. One man who crossed the border, questioned by Israeli television’s Channel 2, was said to come from the refugee camp at Yarmouk, insisting that he was a Palestinian from Nazareth.

Pictures taken by a local resident of Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, said to be of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the streets of the village, were also shown on the channel.

Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. Syria would very much like to reclaim this territory; Damascus demands that it must be included in any peace agreement drawn up with Israel. In spite of the hostility between the two countries, the frontier has remained relatively calm since the war of 1973.

In Maroun el-Rass on the Lebanese border, forty kilometres west of the conflict on the Golan Heights, at least four people met their deaths according to two Lebanese security chiefs. Brigade General Yoav Mordechai, spokesman for the Israeli army, stated that Israeli soldiers opened fire on demonstrators who were vandalising the frontier post. Palestinian refugees had arrived at the village in cars decorated with posters proclaiming ‘We’re coming back’. Many of them came from the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in the Lebanon, which house approximately 400,000 people.

In the Gaza Strip two people died and about forty others were wounded during a demonstration near the Israeli frontier, according to Palestinian relief workers.
Demonstrations also took place on the West Bank. In a refugee camp close to Jerusalem, soldiers used teargas to disperse groups of stone- throwing individuals.
In Israel itself, the police were placed on a state of high alert.

On the West Bank, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, announced that Palestinians were hoping that 2011 would be the year of ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. In Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, his opposite number Ismail Haniyeh, speaking in front of thousands of Palestinians, forecast that Palestinians who were commemorating this day had ‘high hopes of putting an end to the Zionist project in Palestine’.

The Palestinians were commemorating ‘Nakba’, the ‘catastrophe’, which for them represents the founding of the state of Israel on 15th May, 1948 and which had lead to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The fate of millions of refugees and their descendants leaves one of the key questions in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a state of impasse.

On Facebook and other social networking sites, militants appealed to Palestinians and their supporters in other countries to demonstrate on the Israeli frontiers.

In anticipation of this event, the Egyptian army set up at least 15 roadblocks, guarded by tanks and armoured cars along the length of the route between El-Arish and the crossing point between Rafah and the Gaza Strip. Soldiers turned back anyone not resident in this sector.

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