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Syrian state television is reporting that Israeli soldiers killed at least three protesters after opening fire on Palestinian demonstrators in Syria as they tried to cross the border.
The Israeli military has not yet reported any causalities, but does acknowledge that its forces fired warning shots.
The crowd had gathered to commemorate the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, which is still a hot button issue as many Palestinians are calling for a return to the borderlines as they were drawn on the eve of the war.
If the deaths are confirmed, it would mark the second time in two weeks that protests at Israel's border with Syria turned deadly. At least a dozen people were killed on May 15 when thousands of Palestinians massed along the border with Israel in Syria and Lebanon to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of Israel.
Israeli forces along the border with Syria, as well as near or in Gaza and the West Bank were placed on high alert ahead of today's anniversary, reports Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. There was less concern along Israel’s border with Lebanon, as the Lebanese military had declared the border area a closed military zone.
“Unfortunately, extremist forces around us are trying today to breach our borders and threaten our communities and our citizens. We will not let them do that,” said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an article by the Associated Press. “I have instructed our security forces to act with resolve, with maximum restraint but with resolve in order to safeguard our sovereignty, our borders, our communities and our citizens.”
Demonstrators threw rocks and shouted slogans, and eventually tried to climb the border fence. Soldiers opened fire when they began climbing the fence.
'Three martyrs have fallen'
Agence France-Presse cited Syria’s state TV as reporting that “three martyrs have fallen, including a child, and nine others have been wounded by Israeli gunfire near the barbed wire on the occupied Golan.”
Israeli forces say that after issuing numerous warnings to the demonstrators, a small group of protesters continued to approach the border. Israel’s “forces were left with no choice, but to open fire towards the ground in an effort to deter further actions,” said the Israeli Defense Forces in a statement reports CNN.
“But we have seen this advance of a large number of protesters who managed to breach one line of razor wire and then effectively got positioned in the center of it all in a trench area,” he said.
There are no reports of any disturbances along the border with Lebanon, but Canada’s CBC reports that Palestinians in all 12 of the nation’s refugee camps staged demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the Six Day War.
“Today we are expressing our stance by striking in all Palestinians camps in Lebanon,” Fuad Othman, a Palestinian refugee in Ein el-Hilweh told CBC.