The Israeli military on Sunday responded to a New York Times report that questioned its use of live fire in an incident along the Gaza border on June 1, in which a Palestinian medic, 21, was killed when a soldier fired into a crowd of protesters.
The IDF said the army’s internal investigations body is “probing to clarify the reasons behind the death of Razan al-Najjar. The results of the investigation will be sent to the military advocate general upon their completion.”
For its investigation, The Times analyzed over 1,000 photographs and videos of the incident, interviewed over 30 eyewitnesses, spoke to Israeli and Palestinian officials and ballistics experts, and worked with the Israeli-run company Forensic Architecture to build a 3D rendering of the shooting, which also integrated drone and cellphone footage.
“The bullet that killed her, The Times found, was fired by an Israeli sniper into a crowd that included white-coated medics in plain view. A detailed reconstruction, stitched together from hundreds of crowd-sourced videos and photographs, shows that neither the medics nor anyone around them posed any apparent threat of violence to Israeli personnel,” it said.
“Though Israel later admitted her killing was unintentional, the shooting appears to have been reckless at best, and possibly a war crime, for which no one has yet been punished,” the report added.
According to The Times, the bullet that killed Najjar also injured two other medics.
“Three medics down, all from one bullet. It seemed improbable,” the report said. “But The Times’s reconstruction confirmed it: The bullet hit the ground in front of the medics, then fragmented, part of it ricocheting upward and piercing Ms. Najjar’s chest. It was fired from a sand berm used by Israeli snipers at least 120 yards (some 110 meters) from where the medics fell.”
Following an initial investigation, the military confirmed that shots had been fired in the area around the time that Najjar was killed, but said that no live fire was intentionally aimed at the medic.
“During the incident, a limited number of bullets were fired and no gunfire was directly or intentionally fired at her,” the army said in a statement.
Later, a senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Najjar had apparently been struck by a bullet that had been fired at a different rioter.
In October, in an unusual move, the army’s top lawyer called for the Military Police to launch a criminal investigation into the death of Najjar.
The medic’s death sparked a flurry of condemnations against the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces, from Palestinians, from within Israel, and internationally.
The Palestinian Medical Relief Society said Najjar was shot “as she was attempting to provide first aid to an injured protester,” and was among three other first responders also hit by live fire that day.
“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.”
Najjar had given an interview to The New York Times the previous month, in which she proudly discussed her position as a female volunteer medic.
“Being a medic is not only a job for a man. It’s for women, too,” she said. “We have one goal. To save lives and evacuate people. And to send a message to the world: Without weapons, we can do anything.”
Days after the fatal incident, a top IDF spokesperson said Najjar was “no angel of mercy,” as the army released a video purportedly showing her lobbing a smoke grenade toward Israeli forces.
“Razan al-Najjar is not the angel of mercy Hamas propaganda is making her out to be,” IDF Arabic spokesman Maj. Avichay Adraee tweeted.
Adraee accompanied his tweet with a short video compilation allegedly showing Najjar on several occasions during the recent Gaza border clashes.
The video, and Adraee’s comment that she was “no angel of mercy,” seemed designed to raise doubts about the volunteer medic’s innocence during the clashes, though the army did not indicate that it considered Najjar to be a legitimate target, raising questions among some commentators about its overall intentions with the campaign.
In one part of the clip, Najjar is seen giving an interview to an Arabic news outlet, saying that she wanted to serve as “a human shield” for protesters.
“I’m here on the line being a protective human shield saving the injured,” Najjar, 21, said in the interview.
The IDF clip cut her statement after “human shield.”
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.