25th Feb 2021

EU and US react to Israeli killings on border fence

  • Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Historian Ilan Pappe has described the post-1948 expulsions as 'ethnic cleansing' (Photo: Farfahinne)

The EU has described as "deplorable" Israel's killing of 14 unarmed Palestinians at the weekend. But the US struck a more pro-Israeli note.

EU foreign relations spokeswoman Maja Kocjancic told EUobserver in Brussels on Monday (16 May) that "The EU deplores the loss of life and injuries of civilians in the clashes. It's important that the demonstrations are peaceful and that the response is measured and proportionate."

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She added: "The events show the urgent need to resume negotiations for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict."

When asked if the Union considers the Israeli shootings "proportionate" Kocjancic said: "It was a very specific situation and we are still in the process of gathering information."

Reacting to the same events also on Monday, US state department spokesman Mark C. Toner said: "We regret these deaths and injuries."

The US side put greater emphasis on Israel's "rights" and indicated that Syria is partly to blame for the incident, however.

"Israel does have the right to defend its borders," Toner added. "It's clearly an effort by them [Syria] to take focus off the situation that's happening right now in Syria, and it's a cynical use of the Palestinian cause to encourage violence along its border as it continues to repress its own people."

Israeli soldiers killed 14 unarmed civilians and injured more than 100 when Palestinian protesters tried to cross fences on the Syria-Israel and Lebanon-Israel borders on Sunday.

According to reports in the Israeli press, protesters came in hundreds of buses from Syria, carried Palestinian flags, threw stones and chanted "We want our land back."

The action marked the Nakba - meaning "Catastrophe" in Arabic - the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948, which led to mass-scale expulsions of Palestinians from Israel in what some historians have described as "ethnic cleansing."

Israel and Lebanon are filing rival complaints to the UN Security Council over Sunday's events, with Israel saying Lebanon and Syria broke the law in letting protesters through.

Speaking in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "The Palestinians call this a day of catastrophe, but their catastrophe is that their leadership has not managed to reach a compromise. Today, they still don't have a leadership that is ready to recognise Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people."

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said: "We need to define the land in which we will realise our national aspirations. What is the border, PM? ... Our job is to ensure that the establishment of Palestine does away with the term Nakba."

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