Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday declared three days of mourning for 15 people killed in mass marches toward Israel's borders from Gaza, Syria and Lebanon that marked a stunning new tactic in the struggle for Palestinian statehood.
Sunday's marches, on the date Palestinians mourn their uprooting as a result of Israel's 1948 creation, illustrated Arab dissatisfaction with the deadlocked efforts to establish a Palestinian state. The unprecedented tactic also reflected an Arab world emboldened by the anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East this year.
Abbas, who is pursuing alternative routes to statehood after a breakdown in peace talks with Israel, quickly embraced those who tried to breach Israel's borders.
"Their blood will not be spilled in vain, because their blood was spilled for the freedom and rights of our people," he said.
Flags at public buildings in the West Bank were lowered to half-staff.
Some in Israel suspected an Iranian hand in the attempted border breaches, with the help of Tehran's allies in the region: Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Palestinian officials said the marches were a purely Palestinian initiative, organized on Facebook by activists, many of them living in exile.
Israel said it would file a complaint against Syria and Lebanon at the U.N. later Monday.
Early Monday, the unrest spilled over into Egypt, where riot police fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. The protesters set fire to an Israeli flag, chanted anti-Israeli slogans and called for the expulsion of Israel's ambassador and the closure of the embassy. Twenty were arrested and 353 people were hurt in the clashes with police, Egyptian officials said.
Israeli security forces were out in large numbers in northern Israel on Monday, having been taken by surprise the day before.
Israel was expecting Sunday's unrest to center in the West Bank, as it has in years past. Instead, thousands of Palestinians and their supporters in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza descended on Israel's borders in an unprecedented outpouring.
The most surprising development were the hundreds who poured across the Syrian frontier into the Israeli-held Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed in a move that has not been recognized internationally.
The rare incursion from the tightly controlled Syrian side drew Israeli accusations that Damascus and its ally Iran orchestrated the unrest to shift attention from an uprising within Syria against the regime of President Basher Assad. Four infiltrators were killed in the ensuing clash with Israeli security forces.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police carried out house-to-house searches in the Golan border village of Majdal Shams looking for Syrians who had burst through the fence.
Separately, police arrested an unarmed man from Syria who they said infiltrated into the Golan on Sunday and was trying to make his way south into Israel proper, Rosenfeld said.
On the nearby Lebanese border, 10 people were reported killed Sunday when protesters approached the border fence with Israel. The Israeli military said it opened fire when protesters tried to damage the fence, and Israeli officials suggested that Lebanese soldiers might have been responsible for some of the casualties.
It was the deadliest incident along the volatile border since Israel fought Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas during a monthlong war five years ago.
A 15th person was killed in Gaza by Israeli sniper fire; the military said he was trying to plant a bomb.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah's leader praised the protesters for their "courage and belief." Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the message was clear: that Palestinians are determined to liberate their land "regardless of the cost" and Israel will perish.
Palestinians were marking the "nakba," or "catastrophe," the term they use to describe their displacement in the war surrounding Israel's founding on May 15, 1948. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted. Today, the surviving refugees and their descendants number several million people.
The unusually violent observance came at a critical time for U.S. Mideast policy.
President Barack Obama's envoy to the region, George Mitchell, resigned Friday after more than two years of fruitless efforts. The U.S. president is expected to deliver a Mideast policy speech this week and to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
In the absence of peace talks, the Palestinians plan in September to seek recognition of statehood at the U.N., with or without a deal with Israel.
In an unrelated development, the Israeli Finance Ministry said Monday that Israel has agreed to transfer to the Palestinians cash it withheld after the rival Palestinian factions signed a unity pact.
Israel collects tax funds and customs fees from Palestinians who work in Israel on the Palestinians' behalf. It is supposed to transfer the money to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
But it held up the transfer this month, saying it feared money would reach militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority signed a unity deal with the Iranian-backed Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis.
Israel had come under heavy international pressure to release the funds.
The Palestinian unity deal is meant to end a four-year division that has left them with rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip _ areas they hope to turn into an independent state.
The rival Fatah and Hamas factions were meeting in Cairo on Monday to discuss possible names for the new government they hope to form. The caretaker government is to remain in office until new elections next year.
To placate the international community, which considers Hamas a terrorist group, the new Cabinet will be made up of apolitical technocrats. "It will be a Cabinet of independents, of previously unknown figures," said Azzam al-Ahmed, Fatah's chief negotiator.
Teibel reported from Jerusalem.