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Fourteen people now dead as Israel opens fire on Syrian protesters along border

Local doctors confirmed the death toll as Israeli soldiers opened fire on protesters who stormed the border into the Golan Heights which Israeli seized from Syria in 1967.

Protesters attempt to rescue a man shot by Israeli troops along the Syrian border on Sunday.
Protesters attempt to rescue a man shot by Israeli troops along the Syrian border on Sunday.
Image: Ariel Schalit/AP/Press Association Images

Updated 5.50pm

FOURTEEN PEOPLE, INCLUDING a woman and child, are reported to have been killed after Israeli security forces opened fire across the Syrian frontier on Sunday.

The army was aiming to disperse hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters who stormed the border on the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the 1967 Middle East war.

The casualty figures came from Syrian state television and were confirmed by the head of a hospital treating the casualties. The Israeli military said it was not tracking casualties on either side.

The latest television report said a woman and child were among the dead.

Israel had promised to prevent a repeat of a deadly protest last month, in which hundreds of people burst across the frontier and stormed into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet:

Unfortunately, extremist forces around us are trying today to breach our borders and threaten our communities and our citizens. We will not let them do that.

I have instructed our security forces to act with resolve, with maximum restraint but with resolve in order to safeguard our sovereignty, our borders, our communities and our citizens.

Despite the warnings, several hundred demonstrators passed by a Syrian police outpost early on Sunday and marched to the barbed-wire lined trench the Israeli military dug along the border after last month’s unrest.

The Israeli army said protesters had hurled firebombs at defense force troops, setting fires and leading to the explosion of four landmines on the Syrian side of the border.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and threw rocks and trash over the fence, though none appeared to have crossed the lines.

As the crowd reached the border, soldiers shouted warnings through megaphones against crossing the border:

Anybody who gets close to the fence is endangering his life.

Israeli troops opened fire, sending demonstrators running in panic. Several wounded people were taken away by demonstrators, but dozens more continued heading toward the frontier, shouting “shahid,” or “martyr.”

Residents of Majdal Shams, which is on the Israeli side of the border, watched the protest from rooftops.

Schools had been closed and workers stayed home in anticipation of disturbances. They said local clerics instructed them to stay out of the protests.

More than a dozen people were killed in last month’s unrest, which marked the annual day that Arabs mourn the establishment of Israel.

Sunday’s unrest came on the anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war, in which Israel captured the Golan from Syria, along with the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Things were quiet in these other territories on Sunday.

- AP

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