Saturday 24 February 2018

Israeli soldiers open fire on border protesters, killing 10

Ezzat Baltaji in Beirut

The Israeli army fired on a demonstration at a Lebanese border village yesterday, killing 10 Palestinians marking the "catastrophe" of Israel's founding in 1948, the Lebanese army said.

Israeli forces opened fire at similar demonstrations at its frontiers with Syria and Gaza to repel protesting Palestinians, in the deadliest such confrontations in years.

The Lebanese army had at first fired in the air to prevent hundreds of protesters from amassing near the border.

"The protesters overcame the Lebanese army and marched towards the security fence and started throwing stones," said a cameraman.

"I could see Israeli soldiers hidden among the trees. When there was shooting from the Israeli side, I could see protesters falling wounded," he said.


The Israeli army said the Lebanese army had also used live ammunition in an attempt to hold back crowds rushing the border fence. Israel said the incursions were a provocation inspired by Iran.

A picture showed a Palestinian protester using pruning shears in an attempt to cut through the security fence.

The Lebanese army said 112 people had been wounded. Many were being treated at the Salah Ghandour hospital in the nearby village of Bint Jbeil, which was destroyed during the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006.

"I was standing there throwing stones when suddenly I felt the bullets in my legs," a wounded Palestinian man said. "But I was not afraid and God willing, we are going to return."

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes in the 1948 war that accompanied the founding of Israel.

Palestinians mourn the creation of the state of Israel on May 15 each year, mostly in the West Bank and Gaza. This year, inspired by popular uprisings across the Arab world, they also organised demonstrations in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt at Israel's frontiers.

There are about 427,000 registered Palestinian refugees in 12 refugee camps across Lebanon, according to the United Nations. Several of those wounded yesterday were from the Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon.

The incident near the Lebanese-Israeli border was the deadliest since a cross-border clash between Lebanese and Israeli troops which killed a senior Israeli officer, two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist in August.

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati said: "The continued Israeli aggression on Lebanon affirms once again this enemy cannot live on Palestinian land except by killing, forced migration and endangering the region."

Hezbollah denounced yesterday's shooting and the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon called for calm.

"The resistance movement in Lebanon will continue to be an advocate for Palestinian national rights and calls on everyone to stand united in confronting Israeli occupation," said Hezbollah spokesman Hassan Fadlallah.

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