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Belmont Club

The Day of Disaster

June 5th, 2011 - 12:24 pm

Syria, Lee Smith wrote in his book The Strong Horse, is the one Sunni majority country in the Middle East which has bet that the “narrative of resistance” (the hatred for Israel) is stronger than the ties of the Sunni world. That calculation underlies its alliance with Shiite Hezbollah. It probably undergirds Syria’s decision to let protesters storm its border with Israel leading to the death of at least 14 and the wounding of hundreds of others. Torn by internal dissension, Damascus seeks a solution by reminding the region that it is after all on the frontline with Israel.

Israeli soldiers fired on protesters trying to breach the country’s frontier fence with Syria on the anniversary of the 1967 Middle East War. At least 20 people were killed, according to Syrian state television.

Some 277 people were wounded, including 12 in critical condition, the television said. An Israeli soldier could be heard telling protesters through a loudspeaker in live Syrian television coverage: “If you cross the fence you will be killed.” Israeli soldiers shot at demonstrators’ legs after firing warning shots, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, Israel’s chief military spokesman, said on Channel 2 television.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that security forces would act with “determination” to prevent “extremist elements in the region” from penetrating the frontier.

It was an event everybody knew was coming. The IDF’s northern command had been on publicly announced high alert for exactly what transpired. The Lebanese, alive to the possibility of a clash and aware this game had been played before at their expense, closed the border. But the Syrians let the protesters mass and let themselves against the border. It was entirely predictable.  The Belmont Club has frequently noted that Syria might try something, perhaps rocketing Israel, to distract its population from Damascus’ internal problems. There were no surprises and no way to stop it either.

Dozens of Syrians amassed near the country’s border with Israel on Sunday, as Israeli security forces braced for possible border clashes with protesters marking Naksa Day, the anniversary of the start of the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel took control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. …

The IDF Central Command and Southern Command also declared a high alert in case of an outbreak of violence near the West Bank and the Gaza Strip respectively, although the northern border seemed the most likely flashpoint for clashes.

The two likely locations where clashes were expected were thought to be the border crossing at Quneitra and the “The Hill of Shouting.” The latter location is the same spot where some 180 refugees crossed the border three weeks ago, at least four of whom were killed by IDF fire.

The possibility that refugees will seek to storm the border from the direction of Maroun al-Rass in Lebanon, opposite Moshav Avivim, is considered less likely following the Lebanese army’s announcement that the entire area opposite the border with Israel is a closed military zone.

Following the announcement, the organizers of the Naksa Day events in Lebanon canceled the marches they had planned for today toward the border with Israel. Instead, the various Palestinian organizations will hold rallies in refugee camps throughout Lebanon.

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