'Nakba Day' protests: What regional leaders said

Protests erupted on Israel’s borders and throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Sunday as Palestinians marked the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s independence, which they refer to as the “nakba,” or catastrophe. Here is a roundup of notable statements:

By , Correspondent

Israeli government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from the Jerusalem Post:

"The state was founded 63 years ago on the basis of the declaration of independence which promises equality of rights for all of our citizens regardless of religion, race and sex,’ Netanyahu said.

He added: ‘When one looks at the region today, Israeli Arabs are the only Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa that enjoy democratic rights, equality and civil rights.’

‘I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighboring countries who have turned the day on which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage.’

‘There is no place for that,’ the prime minister said.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, from Haaretz:

"’The IDF must protect the sovereignty of Israel and it succeeded in doing so,’ Barak said [in defense of Israeli troops who clashed with protesters].

… Barak also warned that ‘we are just at the start of this matter and it could be that we'll face far more complex challenges.’

Barak said that IDF soldiers acted with restraint and discretion and only opened fire at the legs of protesters when other crowd dispersal methods proved insufficient.”

IDF spokesman, from Haaretz:

"We are seeing here an Iranian provocation, on both the Syrian and the Lebanese frontiers, to try to exploit the Nakba day commemorations.”

Senior Israeli government official, from Haaretz:

"This appears to be a cynical and transparent act by the Syrian leadership to deliberately create a crisis on the border so as to distract attention from the very real problems that regime is facing at home.”

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