Sunday, May 15, 2011

IDF briefing on "Naqba day" riots (updated)

I was just on a brief conference call with the IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch, where she gave an update on the day's events.

On the Syrian border, a few thousand people - including women and children - gathered at the border around noon. This was not unusual for annual May 15th protests. This time, though, many of them stormed the fence, breaking it. The Syrian army was there and did nothing to stop them. They met up with villagers on the israeli side from the Drize village of Majdal al Shams, who participated in riots with them. The IDF used selective fire to disperse the crowds and discourage more from coming.

On the Lebanese border, there were two separate incidents. In one (Metula), the Lebanese army fired quite forcefully to stop the protesters from storming the fence; in the other, Maroun al-Ras, they did not and the IDF opened fire.

The IDF believes that Hezbollah and Syria organized and helped out in the clashes up north.

In Gaza, the IDF says that its fire stopped the rioters from breaking through the fence.

In Qalandiya, the rioters used somewhat different methods than in the past. They also threw Molotov cocktails at the soldiers and hid themselves behind ambulances. (UPDATE: Photo via Peter Lerner Twitter:)

The IDF could not confirm any casualties. Ma'an says 6 dead up north, 1 killed in Gaza, and many dozens injured in the incidents. The IDF says ten soldiers were lightly wounded.

More from the IDF Spokesperson blog.