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Bloody Sunday

Rushing the border Photo: AFP
Rushing the border Photo: AFP
 
Golan Brigade Commander Colonel Eshkol Shukrun Photo: Reuters
Golan Brigade Commander Colonel Eshkol Shukrun Photo: Reuters
 
 

IDF says handled border breach well

Military admits intelligence did not indicate protesters would infiltrate border, but says its actions prevent further bloodshed

Hanan Greenberg
Published: 05.15.11, 19:30 / Israel News

The IDF admitted Sunday that the Syrian border incident which saw dozens of protesters breach the border fence and enter Majdal Shams was a "failure" that should never have happened.

 

While the military's intelligence did not predict the border rush, IDF sources said that once the protesters breached the fence, the security forces on the ground handled the situation well, and prevented hundreds from being killed.

 

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The military said that while it geared for the possibility of "Nakba" protesters attempting to reach the border fence, the probability of violence erupting on the "Shouting Hill," which sees dozens of rallies a year, was low.

 

An initial military inquiry into Sunday's events derived that nearly 1,000 Syrians approached the fence, with Syrian border forces unable – or unwilling – to stop them.

 

About 300 protesters, including children, rushed the fences and crossed over onto Israeli soil.

 

As a result, about 100 people entered Majdal Shams and clashed with Israeli security forces.

 

Several IDF soldiers sustained mild injuries, including Golan Brigade Commander Colonel Eshkol Shukrun, who ordered his troops not to fire directly on civilians, qualifying that if they must engage, to aim for the lower extremities only.

 

Colonel Shukrun, as well as 12 other soldiers and officers were later taken to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. All were suffering from mild-to-moderate injuries to the head, neck and extremities.

 

Additional forces were dispatched to the area, including Paratroopers and Artillery forces. In the meantime, IDF officials were negotiating with Druze community leaders, in order to return the infiltrators to Syria.

 

Eventually, with the exception of several individuals who were detained by the IDF, all infiltrators returned to Syria.


The border (Photo: AFP) 

 

Military sources said that the incident was playing into Damascus' hands, by distracting the world from Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal suppression of the uprising against him.

 

The Syrian Foreign Ministry meanwhile, condemned Israel's "criminal activities" and demanded the international community "hold Israel responsible for its actions."

 

IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz called a special assessment forum for Sunday night and ordered forces in all sectors to prepare for any scenario. Gantz further instructed the GOC Northern Command to mend the Israel-Syrian border fence immediately.

 

A situation analysis of Sunday's events has led Israel to believe that the Lebanese civilians killed during the border skirmish was hit be Lebanese fire, not the IDF's.

 

The IDF said that the Lebanese Army aggressively tries to stop civilians from reaching the border and did not hesitate to open fire.

 

Lebanese media numbered the casualties at 100, with the death toll rising.

 

The events in Lebanon, the military said, bear Iran's fingerprints – much like the events in Gaza.

 

The UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon urged Israel, Lebanon and Syria to exercise "maximum restraint" and prevent further casualties.

 

Hagai Einav and Reuters contributed to this report

 

 

 

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