Diplomats representing Lebanon and Israel at the United Nations formally submitted protests concerning the violent border clashes that took place between Israel, Lebanon and Syria on May 15, Nakba Day, this past Sunday.
Nakba is Day of Catastrophe
May 15th is the day the Arab world calls Nakba, the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe.’ The day commemorates the anniversary of the founding of Israel in May, 1948. Traditionally this day is observed by Arabs inside and outside of Israel with protests, demonstrations and other activities just on the cusp of turning violent. It is not unheard of for these protests to indeed occasionally turn violent, with rock throwing and tire burning.
This year there was an added element to the day; thousands of Arab protesters converged on the Syrian and Lebanese border with Israel. As the demonstrators began to overrun the border, tear down the fence and enter Israel, Israeli troops shot into the crowd, and as a result, 14 Arabs were killed and hundreds more were wounded.
Lebanon is accusing Israel of using “excessive force” against the unarmed protesters. Meron Reuben, the Israeli ambassador to the UN from Israel, said that the demonstrations were a “dangerous provocation” in letters submitted to the UN Security Council and to Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN.
Israel Says Maximum Restraint Shown
Meron Reuben stated that Israel had shown “maximum restraint in confronting the significant threat of violence.”
In his letters to the UN Mr. Reuben added that, “Any harm caused to the individuals involved in these violent demonstrations lies clearly with” Lebanon and Syria.
Mr. Reuben also expressed his opinion that, at least in the case of the protests in the Golan Heights, the Syrian government helped to organize the border incidents.
The Israeli ambassador continued to say that the huge protest on Sunday “raises disturbing questions about whether certain actors in our region are seeking to such provocations as a cynical distraction from other issues,” referring to the violent confrontation Syria is dealing with now on its home front with dissenters in the south of the country and elsewhere.
Lebanon Says Excessive Force Used
Nawaf Salam, the Lebanese ambassador to the UN, said that the Israeli soldiers ‘opened fire’ on the unarmed demonstrators, even though Lebanese troops took “tight security measures” to accompany the protesters at the border between Lebanon and Israel.
Salam said that the killings point out “Israel’s aggressive nature, as it did not hesitate to use excessive force against civilians in blatant contravention of international law and customs.”
As one of the countries of the 15-nation Security Council with a rotating seat, Lebanon demanded that the council “pressure Israel to renounce its belligerent and provocative policy toward Lebanon and hold it responsible” for the deaths.