U.S.: Syria 'Clearly' Inciting Israel Border Protests

U.S. State Department blames Syria for the deaths of reported 23 protesters, but Jordan blasts Israel for the killings on Golan Heights Sunday.

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The United States said on Monday that Syria was "clearly" behind lethal confrontations between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters along the once-quiet ceasefire line between the two countries and that Israel has a right to defend itself.

"This is clearly an attempt by Syria to incite these kinds of protests," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, saying Damascus hoped to divert attention from its own internal problems. "Israel, like any sovereign nation, has a right to defend itself."

Meanwhile, the Jordanian government on Monday condemned the killing of Arab protesters by IDF troops on the Golan Heights over the weekend.

Protesters walking towards the Syrian-Israeli border near the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights June 5, 2011. Credit: Reuters

"Israel is applying double standards by preaching the values of democracy and freedom and at the same time giving orders to its forces to kill unarmed people who were protesting at the continued occupation of their land in violation of international law and UN resolutions," Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said in a statement.

The comments came a day after Syria reported that 23 people were killed and scores wounded in a Naksa Day rally along the border marking 44 years since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Syrian police blocked dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters from approaching the frontier on Monday, preventing a repeat of deadly clashes with Israeli forces that killed as many as 23 people who tried to rush the border.

Israeli officials said the instability in Syria ruled out any prospects for peace and accused the government of orchestrating the deadly unrest to deflect attention from its own crackdown on homegrown protests. Israel also questioned Syria's reported death toll.

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees said Sunday that at least 1,270 people have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested across the country since the uprising began in the country in March.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh said growing Arab protests against Israeli occupation of Arab lands "reflected pessimism and frustration on the part of Arab peoples over Israel's obstinacy and failure to respond to serious world efforts" aimed at ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He said that "maintaining stability and real security in the Middle East lay in Israel's evacuation of all Arab lands it occupied in the 1967 war and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital."

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