Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Syria of trying to “heat up the border” by enabling a violent confrontation between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops in the Golan Heights.
Israel will make a formal complaint to the United Nations that may be delivered as early as today in New York, following the clash in which Israeli forces fired on a crowd marking the anniversary of the 1967 Middle East War by trying to cross the frontier with Syria into Israel, according to Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Syrian state television said 23 people were killed. UN observers are trying to confirm details of the incident, according to a statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s office. The incident occurred as more than two months of protests within Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have left more than 1,100 people dead, human rights groups say.
The Golan confrontation “was no accident,” Netanyahu said after addressing lawmakers from his Likud Party in Jerusalem, according to an e-mailed statement. “There is an attempt to heat up the border, to breach our borders. here is an attempt here to divert international attention away from what is happening within Syria.”
Clashes between protesters and Israeli forces on the frontiers with Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and West Bank left as many as nine dead on May 15, as Palestinians marked the anniversary of what they call the “Nakba,” Arabic for catastrophe, referring to their displacement in 1948 as a result of the creation of the state of Israel.
The Israeli-Syrian frontier has been largely quiet since the 1973 war, in which Syria tried to recapture the Golan Heights. Israel annexed the Golan in 1982 in a move that hasn’t been internationally recognized.