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2011 Israeli border demonstrations

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Title: 2011 Israeli border demonstrations  
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Subject: 2011 in Israel, Arab Spring, 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests, 2011 in the Palestinian territories, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 65/265
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2011 Israeli border demonstrations

2011 Israeli border demonstrations
Part of the Arab Spring
An Egyptian burning an Israeli flag during a Nakba Day protest at the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
Date 15 May 2011 (2011-05-15) and 5 June 2011 (2011-06-05)

Borders of Israel

  •  Egypt
  •  Jordan
  •  Lebanon
  •  Palestinian National Authority
  •  Syria
Methods Demonstrations
Status Ended
30,000+ protesters
Death(s) 12–40[1][2]
Injuries 380-730+[3][4][5][6][7]

The 2011 Israeli border demonstrations started on 15 May 2011, to commemorate what the Palestinians observe as Nakba Day. Various groups of people attempted to approach or enter Israel's borders from the Palestinian-controlled territory, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. At least a dozen people were killed when protesters attempted to cross the border from Syria. All Palestinian civilians marching peacefully towards their land who tried to cross were shot.[8]

On 5 June 2011, there were further protests on the border with Syria and, according to Syrian authorities, 23 protesters were killed and 350 wounded by live fire from Israeli forces,[9] though Israeli sources suggested these figures were exaggerated.[10] Israeli army spokesman Yoav Mordechai accused Syria of creating "a provocation" at the border to distract attention from the Syrian government's crackdown on the Syrian uprising.[11]

15 May events

Inspired by the uprisings and revolutions taking place in the Arab world, Palestinians used Facebook to call for mass protests throughout the region on 15 May 2011 Nakba Day.[12][13][14][15] A page calling for a "Third Palestinian Intifada" to begin on 15 May was started on 9 March 2011, garnered more than 350,000 "likes" before being taken down by Facebook managers at the end of March after complaints from the Israeli government as well as a counter group which repeatedly requested Facebook to block the page on the grounds that it incited violence.[16][17] The page called for mass marches to Israel and Palestinian Authority from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to commemorate the Nakba and demand the right of return for all Palestinian refugees.[18]


Organizers in Egypt had been preparing for weeks to implement the calls made on Facebook for a mass march to the border.[14][16] On Saturday 14 May, thousands were planning to make their way toward the army.[14] The blockage of access by Egyptian forces to the Sinai Peninsula, meant that only about 80 activists managed to reach the border with Rafah.[19]


In Jordan, 200 Palestinian students attempted to march towards the Israeli border, but were restrained by Jordanian security forces resulting in the injury of six people.[20] They were part of a larger group of 500 who were stopped at the Allenby Bridge. Jordanian authorities said a total of 25 people were injured, including 11 police officers. The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front, condemned police actions which they described as "shocking" stating: "We condemn the attack, which is part of government policies to impose its will on the people, and we demand an end to such policies that have harmed Jordan's image."[21]


Activists had organized an event on a mountaintop in the village of Maroun al-Ras that overlooks the border with Israel. Some 30,000 people, including Palestinian refugees from various Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon attended.[3][22] After walking up the mountain to the protest site, many decided to descend the opposite side, and continued on towards the border.[3] Lebanese Army soldiers fired into the air in a failed effort to deter them.[23] Crossing through a minefield that was laid by Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War, they reached the border fence, and threw stones over it, chanting for their right of return. The Lebanese army intervened and began firing M16 assault rifles and tear gas, which sent protesters fleeing back up the mountain.[3]

Eleven participants were killed and 100 injured by gunfire before the protesters retreated.[3][22][24] There were conflicting reports of who shot them. Media reported that the protesters were shot by the IDF.[3][23] The IDF said most of those killed were likely shot by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and that they had a video that established this, but would not release it on the grounds that it might cause embarrassment to the Lebanese Army.[25]

Gaza Strip

Between 500 to 600 Palestinians marched towards the Erez Crossing, a border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on 15 May.[6] Palestinian medical officials said that IDF forces fired on the group intermittently over the course of a couple of hours with tanks, machine guns, gas canisters and sound bombs, killing one demonstrator and wounding more than 80.[4][6][26][27]

Palestinian Authority

In the West Bank, Palestinians from a burgeoning new youth movement convened seminars on strategies for non-violent resistance to prepare for a 15 May march on the Qalandia checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem, and several of them were arrested by Palestinian Authority police in the month before the protest date. On 15 May, more than 1,000 protestors marched through the Qalandia refugee camp until they reached within 100 metres of the checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem where Israeli forces used tear gas to disperse most of them.[5][28] Around 100 Palestinian protesters engaged in a standoff with Israeli forces over the next seven hours, throwing stones, as Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets.[5][28] More than 80 protestors, including three paramedics, sustained injuries and twenty were hospitalized; a doctor at the hospital said the last time he saw so many casualties in one day was during the Second Intifada.[5]


In Syria, the events were organized by phone and internet by Palestinian refugees, most of them university students independent of any political faction, in response to the call for a "Third Palestinian Intifada" on Facebook.[29][30] Demonstrators gathered near the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line waving Palestinian flags, and then marched toward and breached the fence, entering the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.[23][31][32] The first wave of demonstrators to move toward the fence were stopped by Syrian police who were later overtaken when a second group arrived.[32] The sole Israeli patrol present was similarly overwhelmed and opened fire on the demonstrators.[32] Four demonstrators were killed and dozens injured.[6]

The Israeli military stated that it only fired warning shots when about 1,000 demonstrators approached the fence, and some 300 children among them, rushed toward the fence.[26][33] More than a hundred managed to bypass the fence and enter the Arab Druze town of Majdal Shams.[33][34] About a dozen members of Israel's security forces were injured in clashes in Majdal Shams.[33] Two demonstrators were arrested and detained, but were returned to Syria.[15]

5 June events

Gaza Strip

In the northern Gaza Strip, dozens of demonstrators tried to march towards the Erez border crossing with Israel.[2][35] Hamas police had erected checkpoints to stop protesters from reaching Israel's border and clashed with protestors, arresting around a dozen who had left a rally organized in the northern town of Beit Hanun.[2][35]

Palestinian Authority

At the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank, around 300 demonstrated in a protest that began with about 10 people forming a human chain in front of Israeli soldiers who responded with tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets.[35] After they sat on the ground refusing to leave, they were forcefully removed by soldiers in riot gear and youth at the back of the crowd began throwing stones.[35] Over the course of several hours, 120 were injured, mostly by tear gas, but also by rubber bullets, sound bombs, and a new stink spray being used for crowd control purposes.[35] Dozens of protesters from the northern West Bank village of Deir al-Hatab also tried to march to the nearby Elon Moreh settlement.[2]


Palestinian organizers in Lebanon planned for a march along the Lebanese-Israeli border for 5 June, but following a decision by the Lebanese Army to ban all protests along the border, the "Palestinian preparatory committee of the return march" canceled the protest on 3 June.[22] Palestinian refugees in Lebanon held strikes instead.[22] Groups independent of the Return to Palestine March Committee still attempted to reach the border, and the Lebanese army stopped a group of 20 youths in the border town of Kfar Kila.[36]


IDF photo:"IDF Soldiers Near Israel-Syria Border Following "Naksa Day" Riots"

On 5 June 2011 Palestinian and Syrian protesters moved towards the Golan Heights line of control near Quneitra and Majdal Shams.[9][37] According to Syrian officials, 23 people were killed and 350 people were injured by Israeli snipers as they attempted over the course of several hours to breach the barbed-wire border.[7][9] Among the dead was also reportedly an unarmed 12-year-old boy.[38] According to Israeli officials, they counted 10 dead, none of whom were killed by Israeli fire.[39] The New York Times said that, either way, this clash produced the greatest loss of life in the Golan since the Yom Kippur War in 1973.[10]

Palestinians from the suburbs of Damascus were reportedly bused into the area and massed the border without interference from Syrian troops.[37] The IDF described this as a provocation by President Bashar Assad, that was designed to distract world attention away from the ongoing "slaughter of protesters" in Syria by Assad's troops,[37] referring to the Syrian uprising.

Israeli soldiers shouted warnings in Arabic via loudspeakers asking the Palestinians to refrain from trying to cross the frontier, adding that those who did so would endanger their lives.[37] Israeli forces were under orders to prevent the protesters from crossing the line of control.[9] Although no protesters managed to cross the border, the protesters thought the day was a success, as they believed that there would be outrage against Israeli troops for firing on unarmed protesters.[10] In response the US State Department said that it was "troubled" by the loss of life,[40] but noted that Israel has the right to defend its sovereign borders.[41] In the aftermath, thousands began a sit-in near Golan,[42] resulting in the Syrian government creating a security buffer zone for humanitarian purposes.[43]

Paramedics on the Syrian side of the border asked that the IDF grant them cease-fires to clear the wounded. The army agreed to the request, but then saw activists exploiting the quiet to try to cut the border fence, bringing the truce to an end.[37]

One of those killed, Ezzat Maswadi, was a Palestinian born in Jerusalem in 1977, who grew up in al-Eizariya. His father, who lives in al-Eizariya, could not procure a permit to travel to Damascus to attend his funeral.[44]

The United States lobby group the Syrian Reform Party issued a statement accusing the Syrian regime of hiring Syrian protesters to storm the border to deflect attention from its own crackdown against the 2011 Syrian uprising, further claiming that protesters were paid about 1,000 dollars for protesting, with 10,000 being offered to their family if the protester was killed.[45]

Syrian State TV reported six hours live from the incident, and it is claimed that it did not report on Syrian crackdowns during that time.[46]

Clashes broke out at a funeral for the dead in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus on 6 June. Allegedly angered by the PFLP-GC's refusal to take part in the protests, thousands of mourners attacked and burnt-down its headquarters in Yarmouk. PFLP-GC members opened-fire on the crowd, killing 14 Palestinians and wounding 43.[47][48][49][39]

See also


  1. ^ "UN's Pillay condemns Israeli 'Naksa' killings". Al Jazeera English. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d  
  3. ^ a b c d e f "In Pictures: Nakba day violence on the Israel-Lebanon border". Al Jazeera English. 
  4. ^ a b Israeli military's killing of Nakba protesters must be investigated
  5. ^ a b c d Green shoots emerge at Qalandia checkpoint
  6. ^ a b c d Palestinians killed in 'Nakba' clashes. Al-Jazeera English. 15 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b Protests continue on the border at Golan, 23 killed yesterday by Israeli fire
  8. ^ "Israeli forces open fire at Palestinian protesters". BBC. 16 May 2011. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Israeli army on alert for second day along border with Syria". The Hindu (India). 6 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c Kershner, Isabel (5 June 2011). "Israeli Soldiers Shoot at Protesters on Syrian Border". New York Times. Archived from the original on 24 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Palestinians test tactic of unarmed mass marches.
  13. ^ "Persistence will pay off for Palestinians". 18 May 2011. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Army fires on Cairo's Nakba rally". 17 May 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Syrian infiltrator recounts journey to TA". 20 June 1995. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Israeli Troops Clash with Palestinian Protesters". 15 May 2011. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  17. ^ "Facebook page supporting Palestinian intifada pulled down". CNN. 29 March 2011. Archived from the original on 24 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Egyptians to mark Nakba with a march to Palestine". Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  19. ^ Egyptians rally at Rafah for Palestinian rights. Ma'an News Agency. 15 May 2011.
  20. ^ Muir, Jim. Palestinian protests: Arab spring or foreign manipulation?. BBC News. 15 May 2011.
  21. ^ Jordan police say 25 hurt in Nakba clashes. Ma'an News Agency. 16 May 2011.
  22. ^ a b c d "Palestinian refugee camps bury Nakba martyrs". 17 May 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  23. ^ a b c "Israel: Unrest on the borders". The Economist. 15 May 2011. Archived from the original on 19 May 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  24. ^ Prosor slams Lebanon violations in letter to Ban
  25. ^ Pinkas, Alon. "IDF withholds video of Lebanese firing on protesters". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  26. ^ a b Israeli forces open fire at Palestinian protesters. BBC News. 15 May 2011.
  27. ^ "Israel-Syria-Lebanon borders calm after Palestinian Nakba protest". Monsters and Critics. 14 May 1948. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  28. ^ a b Palestinians emboldened by Arab Spring
  29. ^ Haddad, Rim (18 May 2011). "Shot Palestinian youth proud of Golan protest". Google. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  30. ^ Nabulsi, Karma (19 May 2011). "Nakba day: we waited 63 years for this". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  31. ^ Gideon Biger (17 May 2011). "Israel was infiltrated, but no real borders were crossed". Haaretz. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  32. ^ a b c They crossed minefields,' Golan residents marvel"'". 17 May 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  33. ^ a b c IDF says handled border breach well.
  34. ^ Pfeffer, Anshel (27 April 2011). "IDF unprepared for Syria border breach, despite intelligence tips". Haaretz. Israel. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  35. ^ a b c d e Israel quashes West Bank protests
  36. ^ Yasmine Ryan. "Palestinian activism energised by Arab Spring". Al Jazeera English. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  37. ^ a b c d e Yaakov Lappin and Herb Keinon (5 June 2011). "IDF rebuffs 'Naksa' rioters trying to cross Syrian border". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  38. ^ "Israeli troops kill 14, including 12-year-old boy, as protesters bid for border", Catrina Stewart. Belfast Telegraph. 6 June 2011. Accessed 6 June 2011
  39. ^ a b 'Naksa' deaths spark Palestinian violence
  40. ^ "Golan: Israel troops fire on pro-Palestinian protesters". BBC. 5 June 2011. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  41. ^ "US on Naksa clashes: Israel has right to defend itself". Jerusalem Post. 6 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  42. ^ "Press Digest", Lebanon Daily Star. 6 June 2011. Accessed 6 June 2011
  43. ^ "Syria blocks new protest at Israeli border", Boston Herald. 6 June 2011. Accessed 6 June 2011
  44. ^ Agence France Presse (10 June 2011). "Syria refugee's dream of return ends in tragedy". France 24. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  45. ^ "RPS STATEMENT CONCERNING THE ASSAD STOMPERS OF THE GOLAN HEIGHTS – Syrian Opposition – Reform Party of Syria". 5 June 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  46. ^ "Bürgerkrieg in Syrien " haGalil". Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  47. ^ "Report: 14 Palestinians killed in Syria camp". Ma'an News Agency, 8 June 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  48. ^ "Mass shooting reported in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria – video". The Electronic Intifada, 6 June 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  49. ^ Kershner, Isabel (7 June 2011). "Fighters Shoot Protesters at a Palestinian Camp in Syria". The New York Times. 
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