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Wednesday July 20, 2011 9:38 AM (EST+7)
Israel bolsters borders, wary of September protests

Read more: borders, Israeli military, non-lethal methods, Palestinian casualties, international casualties, Nekba, Neksa

TEL AVIV, July 19 (Dan Williams/Reuters) - Israel will reinforce its border defenses in anticipation of protests by supporters of a Palestinian state in September and could target protest leaders with live ammunition, a military commander said on Tuesday.

Palestinians hope the United Nations will vote in September to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip but Israel has lobbied against the move and it could face a U.S. veto in the Security Council.

The officer said there must be no repeat of the events of May 15, when scores of Palestinian refugees and sympathizers, some hurling rocks, crossed a fenced and mined armistice line on the occupied Golan Heights.

It is the military's duty to defend the country's borders and sovereignty, and that is what we will do, said the commander, who declined to be identified.

Although the officer said Israel did not know how ordinary Palestinians might react in September, he envisaged a scenario of mass-disturbances resulting from dismay at this-or-that U.N. decision not being felt on the ground.

Israeli soldiers killed 13 people during the May 15 protest and Syria accused Israeli forces of killing 23 others on June 5 when protesters surged against the fortified boundary fence on Syria's Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Troops were now being equipped and trained with less lethal means for use on the boundaries with the Syrian Golan, Lebanon, occupied West Bank or Gaza, the commander said.

These included 25 camera-guided, truck-mounted hoses for drenching crowds 150 meters (yards) away -- enough to use over a frontier fence -- with a foul-smelling skunk liquid, as well as teargas with similar ranges.

Israel was also erecting new fences, digging trenches, and marking anti-personnel minefields with warning signs to discourage protesters from approaching its military garrisons.              


We are doing everything to avoid the point of lethality, the officer said. The closer they come to touching distance from a soldier, the likelier the soldier is to feel his life is threatened and resort to using his weapon.

In Gaza, Israel enforces a 300 meter-wide no-go zone on the Palestinian side of the boundary, saying this is needed to protect against gun or bomb ambushes. This has often entailed shooting on sight anyone who enters, armed or not.

If pro-Palestinian demonstrators mass again on the Lebanese border or in the Golan, the officer said, Israeli forces would order them over loudhailers in Arabic to keep away from boundary fences, at distances to be determined by the terrain.

Obviously, there is an issue here in that we are dealing with territories under sovereign control, he said, referring to the governments in Beirut and Damascus.

In the absence of bilateral ties with these countries, the officer said, Israel had been coordinating its preparations with U.N. peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon and the Golan.

The officer said troops would fire warning shots, then shoot to wound, and as a last resort shoot to kill anyone who closed in on the border.

We will be poised to hit the leaders, the officer said.

Asked if gunfire could also be aimed at those suspected of orchestrating the protest from the rear, he said: The people who lead these proceedings do so both physically, and in terms of being in command role.

Wary of international censure, Israel also plans to issue its military border garrisons with video cameras and the means to relay footage back for swift dissemination to world media.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage)






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