JERUSALEM, FEB. 14 -- Druze villagers clashed with Israeli police today in a protest against Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967. The violent demonstrations were the first in the Golan Heights since disturbances began in other Israeli-occupied Arab territories more than two months ago.
Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing Druze, who demonstrate annually in the Golan Heights on the date Israeli law was unilaterally imposed on the strategic plateau in 1982. In Israel proper, the Druze, some of whom serve in the Army, have traditionally been among the most accepting of Israeli rule of any minority.
Several villagers and a police officer were injured during clashes in Majdal Shams, largest of the four Druze villages in the Golan Heights, residents said. About 1,600 police were used to quell the demonstrations, police said, and about 20 Druze were arrested in Majdal Shams.
"We are demonstrating to show the Israelis we don't want to be part of their country. We are Syrian and we want to go back to Syria," said one of several stone-throwing teenagers in Majdal Shams.
In a separate move, the Israeli Interior Ministry announced it would loosen restrictions on some Druze visits to families in Syria.
Meanwhile, a military spokesman said the Army was investigating reports that several Palestinian youths were buried alive Feb. 5 by soldiers operating a bulldozer in the West Bank village of Salem, near Nablus.
Villagers said the youths, who were unconscious when dug up later, were ordered to remove roadblocks erected during a protest and then to lie on the ground, where they were beaten and covered with earth.
In the Gaza Strip, no one was injured when protesters set fire to an Israeli bus picking up Arab laborers for work in Israel in one of several scattered protests in the occupied territories today. Cars were set ablaze overnight in the mainly Jewish French Hill section of Jerusalem.