JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saysSyria may have encouraged the border demonstrations that led to a deadly clash with Israeli troops, Sunday.
Syrian protestors have set up camp on Israel's northern border and may stay several more days. After several attempts to warn the demonstrators, Israeli soldiers fired at the feet of those in the crowds over the weekend.
"Unfortunately, we have those elements in the Middle East which … are bound for destruction and we are protecting ourselves," Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said.
Syrian television claims the soldiers killed 20 protestors and wounded more than 200, but Israel disputes those figures.
A security source told CBN News it's in Syria's interest to inflate the casualty figures since the government has killed more than 1,000 of its own citizens over several weeks of demonstrations inside Syria.
A number of Middle East analysts suspect Syria is using the border demonstrations as a provocation and propaganda tool to divert attention from those internal demonstrations that are threatening the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"This could not be happening without the acquiescence of the Syrian regime, which has apparently taken a decision to increase tension on the frontier in order to divert attention from the real problems they face at home," Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said.
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Syria gave the green light for the protests, and many of the demonstrators were bussed to the border. A Syrian opposition group said protestors were paid $1,000 to come to the border and the government promised $10,000 to the family of anyone who was killed.
The protestors on the Syrian border and others in the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria) are calling their demonstrations "Naksa" -- an Arabic word that means "setback."
The term is a reference to the war Syria fought with Israel in 1967. They claim Israel illegally captured land.
At the time, the Arab nations of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and others pledged to drive the Jews into the sea and annihilate the less than 20-year old Jewish state.
But instead of being destroyed, Israel defied the odds by defeating all its enemies, capturing the West Bank, the Sinai, the Golan Heights and the old city of Jerusalem in a conflict that became known as the Six Day War.