Middle East

Gaza bloodshed: Israel says will investigate death of Razan Najjar, Palestinian medic who was shot in chest while helping protesters

Volunteer paramedic Razan Najjar was the second female fatality out of more than 115 killed since the deadly border protest campaign began in late March

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 10:45am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 8:12pm

Palestinian volunteer paramedic Razan Najjar wanted to save lives. Now the 21-year-old is dead after being shot in the chest by Israeli troops along the Israel-Gaza border.

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Gaza for her funeral. Medical workers, dressed in white uniforms, marched in her funeral procession, holding Palestinian flags and photos of her face.

Her father walked holding his daughter’s own medical vest, once white, now stained red with her blood.

More than 115 people have been killed since protests began on the border at the end of March, but Najjar is only the second woman to die. The first was a teenage protester.

Photos from the scene immediately after Najjar was shot Friday show a group of men carrying the volunteer in her white uniform, her head tilted back and her gloved hand limp around their shoulders.

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society said Najjar was shot “as she was attempting to provide first aid to an injured protester”, with three other first responders also hit by live fire.

“Shooting at medical personnel is a war crime under the Geneva conventions,” the PMRC said in a statement, demanding “an immediate international response to Israeli humanitarian law violations in Gaza”.

The Israeli military said that it would investigate her death but that its troops worked “in accordance with standard operating procedures.”

“The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) constantly works to draw operational lessons and reduce the number of casualties in the area of the Gaza Strip security fence,” the military said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Hamas terror organisation deliberately and methodically places civilians in danger.”

Last month, The New York Times interviewed Najjar in Gaza. She was one of the only female medics responding to medical emergencies during the protests organised by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

“We have one goal – to save lives and evacuate people,” she said in the video.

“And to send a message to the world: without weapons, we can do anything.”

After her death, a volunteer ambulance worker, Izzat Shatat, told Associated Press that he and Najjar were planning to announce their engagement at the end of Ramadan.

On May 14, the same day the United States opened its controversial new embassy in Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas called the protests the Great March of Return. The demonstrations intended to shed light on the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, and also call for “right of return” for Palestinian refugees displaced during the 1948 war.

Organisers encouraged the protesters to try to burst through the fence into Israel, and Israeli soldiers responded with firepower.

They killed dozens of people, including teenagers, and wounded at least 2,700 demonstrators, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The United Nations said that “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.”

But on Friday, the United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel’s “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called the resolution one-sided. The White House has blamed Hamas for the violence in Gaza.

After Najjar died in the operating room on Friday, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Middle East envoy, tweeted that “#Israel needs to calibrate its use of force and Hamas need to prevent incidents at the fence. Escalation only costs more lives.”

“Medical workers are #NotATarget!” he wrote.

In her interview with The New York Times, Najjar said that Gaza needed more female medics like herself.

“The strength that I showed as a first responder on the first day of protests, I dare you to find it anyone else,” she said.

After Najjar’s funeral, dozens of mourners headed to the fence and started throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers on the other side. The Palestinian Health Ministry said five protesters were wounded by Israeli fire.

Later Saturday, in a development that threatened to collapse an informal ceasefire, the Israeli military said two projectiles were fired from Gaza. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system and the other landed inside Gaza.

Last week, Gaza militants fired a large barrage at Israel, which responded with heavy strikes on Gaza installations.

Early Sunday, the Israeli military said fighter jets attacked three Hamas military compounds in response to the rocket fire. It said it struck a total of 10 targets, including weapons manufacturing and storage sites.

Militants responded by firing another projectile that was intercepted, the army said.

The Washington Post, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse