Freepressers

Arab protesters descend on Israeli borders

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Israel accused the Syrian government of deliberately allowing protesters near the border line to detract from problems within the country. / AFP/Getty

MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights – Mobilized by calls on Facebook, thousands of Arab protesters marched on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, sparking clashes that left at least 15 people dead in an annual Palestinian mourning ritual marking the anniversary of Israel’s birth.

In a surprising turn of events, hundreds of Palestinians and supporters poured across the Syrian frontier and staged riots, drawing Israeli accusations that Damascus, and its ally Iran, orchestrated the unrest to shift attention from an uprising back home. It was a rare incursion from the usually tightly controlled Syrian side and could upset the delicate balance between the two longtime foes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads to Washington at the end of the week, said he ordered the military to act with “maximum restraint” but vowed a tough response to further provocations.

“Nobody should be mistaken. We are determined to defend our borders and sovereignty,” he declared in a brief address broadcast live on Israeli TV stations.

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