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Israel braces for new border protests

June 05, 2011

Israeli troops were seen this week reinforcing their side of the Lebanese border with new barbed wire. — File Photo

MAJDAL SHAMS: Israeli security forces were on high alert Sunday ahead of demonstrations called by Palestinian activists on the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War.

Activists in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and neighbouring Arab countries have urged demonstrators to storm Israeli checkpoints and borders on the anniversary in a repeat of protests last month.

On May 15, thousands of protesters massed on Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip, trying to force their way across on the anniversary of Israel's creation.

Palestinians mourn the occasion as a Nakba or “catastrophe” for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled their homes or were expelled in the fighting that followed Israel's declaration of independence.

At least 10 people were killed in the Nakba Day protests, when Israeli troops opened fire on demonstrators. But hundreds of people still managed to breach Israel's border with Syria, streaming into the occupied Golan Heights.

On Sunday, Israel's military and police were on high alert for a repeat as Palestinians mark the Naksa or “setback” of the Six Day War, in which Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and the Golan Heights.

Ahead of the anniversary, the army deployed extra troops along the Lebanese border as well as along the ceasefire lines in the occupied Golan Heights.

Troops were also ramped up along Israel's frontier with the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, Israel's army radio said.

Israeli troops were seen this week reinforcing their side of the Lebanese border with new barbed wire.

Security sources said troops were also digging ditches in a bid to strengthen the border, and Israeli military radio reported that weekend leave had been cancelled for troops in potentially affected areas.

The measures came despite news Friday that the Lebanese army had issued a ban on all demonstrations along the border with Israel, forcing activists to apparently cancel their planned protests there.

Israeli police were also on high alert, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

“The Israeli police have also reinforced their positions, particularly in east Jerusalem and the north of the country,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he had ordered the army to act firmly but to avoid any bloodshed during any border protests.

“My instructions are clear: to act with restraint but with the determination necessary to protect our borders... and our citizens,” he told a hi-tech conference in Jerusalem on Thursday.