Leaders from various Arab countries have begun to react Sunday’s events around Israel and the Occupied Territories, in which at least 16 protesters were killed by Israeli forces, as well as hundreds injured. Across the West Bank and Gaza, thousands took to the street to commemorate al Nakba and demand an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Marches by Palestinian refugees to the Israeli border in Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria resulted in instances of protesters breaching the international borders. Israel forces responded with live gunfire resulting in many of the deaths reported.In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the protests, stating that the protests were not about 1967 borders or the right of return of refugees, as stated by the protesters and organizers, but were instead meant to to challenge “the very existence of Israel”.
Netanyahu defended the actions of the Israeli military, saying that the attacks on protesters were necessary to defend Israeli sovereignty. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also defended the actions of the military, placing blame for the deaths with those who crossed the border and those who sent them. He warned that these protests are just the beginning of similar problems in the future.
Hamas spokesman Tahir al Nunu, reacting to yesterday’s events, claimed that the actions of the Israeli military showed Israel’s confusion and helplessness in the face of the wave of popular movements that have swept the Middle East. Al Nanu predicted that Sunday’s events could mark a turning point for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the protesters’ “precious blood will not be wasted” adding that “it was spilled for the sake of our nation’s freedom”.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah resistance movement in Lebanon, also praised the actions of the protesters and predicted their right of return will be fulfilled in the near future. “Your message, loud and clear, to the enemy is that you will liberate your lands, that the fate of this entity (Israel) is demise, and that no initiatives, treaties or borders will protect it. You, the honorable, have given the Nakba new meaning”, he said. Iranian Foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi also condemned the killing of protesters by the Israeli military and called on the international community to hold it accountable.
The Lebanese Mission to the United Nations has filed a complaint against Israel, and Israel promised to do the same against Lebanon and Syria, to the UN Security Council. Lebanon claims the Israel military violated Lebanese sovereignty and fired shots into the town of Moroun al Ras near the Lebanese-Israeli border. Israel in return claims the move toward the Israeli border by protesters showed a clear disregard for Israeli sovereignty.