MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights – Israeli troops Sunday battled hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters who tried to burst across Syria’s frontier with the Golan Heights, killing a reported 20 people and wounding scores more in the second outbreak of deadly violence in the border area in less than a month.

The clashes, marking the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the 1967 Mideast war, drew Israeli accusations that Syria was orchestrating the violence to shift attention away from a bloody crackdown on opposition protests at home. The marchers, who had organized on Facebook, passed by Syrian and U.N. outposts on their way to the front lines.

“The Syrian government is trying to create a provocation,” said Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. “This border has been quiet for decades, but only now with all the unrest in Syrian towns is there an attempt to draw attention to the border.”

Human rights groups say President Bashar Assad’s forces killed at least 25 people in northern Syria over the weekend, and another 65 activists were killed in the central city of Hama on Friday, as anti-government protests demanding his resignation spread through the country.

There was no Syrian comment on why the protesters were allowed to storm the border. Syria’s state-run media portrayed the event as a spontaneous uprising of Palestinian youths from a nearby refugee camp.

The protests began around 11 a.m. with what appeared to be several dozen youths, brought in on buses. By evening, the crowd had swelled to more than 1,000 people.

A small group of youths managed to cut through a recently fortified coil of barbed wire and took up positions in a trench inside a buffer zone about 20 yards from a final border fence. As the standoff continued, Israeli forces fired heavy barrages of tear gas to break up the crowds. Hundreds of people fled the area, leaving some 20 people lying on the ground.

After nightfall Sunday, Syria’s state TV said there would be an open-ended sit-in at the border, and thousands more protesters were on their way.

Israel had promised a tough response after being caught off guard in last month’s demonstrations, when troops killed more than a dozen people in clashes along the Syrian and Lebanese borders.