In a clear move to distract attention from his own problems, Syrian president Bashir Assad has allowed people to march from the Syrian border toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, in the hope it will lead to a violent reaction from the Israelis. It did. Israeli forces opened fire on the people, wounding several. There are reports of at least four people killed and 13 wounded but these have not been verified.
There can be no doubt that the incursion is part of a Syrian plan. The protests coincide with the 44th anniversary of the Six-Day War, when Israel captured the Golan from Syria, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The border area is a military zone and people will have been bussed or waved through Syrian checkpoints 50 kilometres before they reached the border. (On the Lebanese-Israeli border the Lebanese army has clearly been able to stop planned protests.) Israel is within its rights to defend its territory — including, after having issues warnings, with force.
Yet what is a justified policy is not always a clever one. And I can’t help think the Israeli government is, as often happens, handling the incident more violently than it needs to. Why not let the protesters cross the border, round them up, arrest them, and charge them with crimes? This would likely have the same deterrent effect and give Israel an opportunity to obtain valuable information about the manner in which the crossings were planned, or expose the people as Syrian agents.