Middle East

Israel army plants new mines along Syria border

 

JERUSALEM: Israel's army is planting new land mines along its border with Syria in an attempt to dissuade protesters from rushing into the Golan Heights, according to a report in an Israeli military magazine.

The preparations come as part of Israel's beefed-up measures ahead of rallies that Palestinians are planning to hold in September, the magazine Ba'mahaneh reported over the weekend.

Israel came under heavy international criticism earlier this year after its troops opened fire on Syrians and Palestinians who broke through the fenced border into the Golan Heights during a pair of demonstrations. Around 35 protesters were killed.

Israel worries that the planned Palestinian demonstrations in September around their U.N. bid for independence could also see a new attempt to breach the Golan frontier.

The army decided to go ahead with the move after older mines failed to detonate when the Syrians crossed in June, the magazine reported. The mountainous plateau is heavily sown with minefields, which are marked. Military officials have said they are also preparing non-lethal methods for controlling any Golan protests.

"The activities are intended to thicken landed mines and strengthen obstacles," said Maj. Ariel Iluz of the engineering corps, according to the magazine.

"Combined with our military forces and snipers, these are supposed to delay or even prevent a lot of people from crossing the border," Iluz said.

A June demonstration protested Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, a territory it seized in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed. The international community does not recognize its annexation.

Palestinians also staged a demonstration a month earlier to commemorate the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Arabs during the war surrounding Israel's 1948 creation, an event Palestinians refer to as the nakba, or catastrophe.

The magazine did not say how many mines the army's engineering corps have planted so far, only saying the operation had been continuing for several weeks. An army spokesman was not available for comment.

The magazine reported that the military was taking other measures, including reinforcing fences along the Golan border, increasing infantry troop numbers, posting more snipers and digging trenches.

 

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