Israel braces for border clashes in coming days
By JOSEF FEDERMAN, Associated Press
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military is preparing for the possibility
of violent protests along its borders in the coming days, aiming
to avoid a repeat of deadly unrest that erupted earlier this
month, a senior military official told The Associated Press on
Facebook-organized activists have called for demonstrations next
weekend in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan to mark the anniversary of
the 1967 Mideast war, in which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza
Strip east Jerusalem and Golan Heights.
The official said the army also is planning to counter possible
unrest in the West Bank in September after an expected U.N. vote
to recognize Palestinian independence.
The official said the army hopes to avoid civilian casualties but
would set "red lines" for the demonstrations. That means Israel
will not allow demonstrators to burst across the borders during
the coming week's protests — as they did on the Syria-Israel
border on May 15 — or to enter Jewish settlements in the West Bank
He said Israel will not react to nonviolent demonstrations,
including large gatherings near the settlements, but that it would
be forced to take action in "life-threatening" situations.
On May 15, the day on which Palestinians mourn the anniversary of
Israel's founding, hundreds of demonstrators in Syria broke
through the frontier and entered the Israeli-controlled Golan
Heights, while in Lebanon, large crowds converged on the border.
Some 14 protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers,
who were caught off guard by the attempts to breach the borders.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity under military
guidelines, said the army will be much better prepared this time
around. Larger numbers of troops will be deployed, he said, and
they will be equipped with crowd-control tools such as rubber
bullets and water cannons.
With peace talks frozen, Palestinian activists have begun to talk
about holding large, nonviolent protests throughout the West Bank
after a U.N. vote in September.
The official said Israel is not expecting large-scale violence at
that time, but he warned it wouldn't take much to trigger an
outbreak in fighting. "Unfortunately, we have seen lots of
demonstrations turn violent," he said.