Israeli army northern command, intelligence trade accusations over border breach

11:10, May 17, 2011      

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In the wake of violent clashes on Israel's northern frontiers on Sunday, in which around 10 Palestinian demonstrators were killed at two locations, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Intelligence (MI) division said a warning it issued well ahead of the confrontations was ignored.

All eyes were turned to the West Bank early on Sunday, as thousand of Palestinians took to the streets to commemorate Nakba, an annual ritual that marks the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948.

While Israel's security chiefs were anxiously waiting to see whether the Palestinian security forces deployed in the West Bank would step in to prevent mass protest rallies from deteriorating into all-out confrontations with Israeli troops, thousands of Palestinian demonstrators marched on Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon, taking the IDF by surprise and largely unprepared, local daily Yedioth Ahronoth said on Monday.

Senior MI officials strongly maintained on Sunday that a general warning was issued to the Northern Command a few days prior to Sunday's events, regarding plans to lead mass rallies towards border security fences.

But, according to MI's claims, the warning was ignored, along with real-time information relayed by observation posts early in the morning, of some 90 buses ferrying protesters towards the Syrian-Israel military buffer zone, where four people were killed in clashes with Israeli troops a few hours later.

The IDF's Northern Command, for its part, said the warning forwarded by MI was too general, and that the intelligence provided was not sufficient to justify a significant bolstering of troops in the area.

However, Northern Command Chief Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who approved the deployment plans of troops in his region in preparation for Sunday's events, took responsibility for the decision not to send more troops to Majdal Shams, the Druze village where the melee unfolded.

Local media on Monday said that argument now being waged in the defense establishment over who is to blame, is especially odd in light of the fact that the organizers of Sunday's protests had posted their plans to storm the border fences on the social networking site Facebook, as far back as two months ago.

Aside from arriving late at the scene, the IDF forces deployed at Majdal Shams were not adequately equipped with special, non- lethal demonstration dispersal gear, which forced them to resort to live ammunition, Yedioth Ahronoth said.

The confrontation on the Syrian frontier had also revealed that mine fields placed by Israel in the area, designated as an additional layer of defense in case of war, were ineffective.

Hundreds of demonstrators, which included women and children, trudged through the mine field near Majdal Shams unharmed before breaking through the border fence.

Various groups in recent years have reportedly warned that the mines are old, but their call to have them replaced were unheeded, according to the report.

Source: Xinhua
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