Lebanon Seals Off Israel Border Ahead of Planned Demonstrations

Palestinian groups planning to organize border protests to commemorate the Naksa, or defeat, in the Six-Day War in 1967, which saw Israel occupy the West Bank, Gaza and Syria's Golan Heights.

The Lebanese Army Thursday declared the area around the country's border with Israel a closed military zone, a move aimed at preventing Palestinian protesters from demonstrating in the area this weekend, a Lebanese army source said.

"The Lebanese Army declared the area a closed military zone to stop any escalation at the Lebanese border with Israel that could take place on Naksa Day," the source said.

nakba - Yaron Kaminsky - May 18 2011
Yaron Kaminsky

Palestinian groups are planning to organize a demonstration on Sunday near the Israel-Lebanese border to commemorate the naksa, or defeat, of 1967, which saw Israel occupy the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, Syria's Golan Heights and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

On May 15, Israeli forces killed 11 demonstrators when Palestinians marched to the Israel-Lebanon border, with some infiltrating across the border and into the Golan Heights.

The Palestinians had been participating in a rally in Maroun al-Ras commemorating what they call the Nakba, or disaster, the day when the Jewish state was established in 1948 and also when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homeland.

According to a Lebanese security source, the protesters could instead choose to rally in a closed area in the village of Khiyam, about four kilometers from the Lebanon-Israel border.

The Lebanese army's decision came after Israel warned Lebanon and Syria against allowing any naksa-related protests.

"We shall use all means to prevent an attack on our sovereignty. You will be held accountable," Israeli radio quoted a military source as saying.

The United Nations also expressed Thursday its concern and emphasized the need to avoid any tragedy along the Israeli-Lebanon border.

"We can't afford to see the recurrence of the tragedy that took place on May 15. We fully respect the Palestinian people's right to demonstrate and demand their rights, but we do not want to repeat what happened," UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said after a meeting with Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati.

A Palestinian source told the German Press Agency DPA that protesters were working closely with the Lebanese authorities and that demonstration might be canceled due to "the pressures imposed on Lebanon."