A top IDF spokesperson on Thursday said the Palestinian medic shot dead during clashes along the Gaza border last week was “no angel of mercy,” as the army released a video purportedly showing the woman 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.
The video was released two days after the army said an internal review had determined Najjar was not intentionally targeted by snipers, following international outcry over her death.
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.”
Another part of the clip shows a Palestinian woman, whom the military claimed was Najjar, hurling a smoking canister. The army said the smoke grenade was thrown toward Israeli forces.
“By her own admission, she was a human shield for the rioters and saboteurs, demonstrating how Hamas exploits all of Gazan society for its own purposes as well as Iran’s,” said the IDF major.
“Do medics in other countries throw bombs and participate in riots and refer to themselves as human shields?”
Palestinians and human rights groups have accused the Israeli military of using excessive force against protesters during the weeks of Hamas-led protests along the Israeli border. Najjar’s death sharpened the criticism, with UN officials saying that witness reports indicated she wore clothing that clearly identified her as a health worker.
In two months of mass protests at the Gaza border, some 110 Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded by Israeli military fire. Dozens of the fatalities were members of terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad acknowledged.
Earlier this week, the IDF said an initial investigation into Najjar’s death revealed that while troops did fire at protesters near the fence east of Khan Younis where she was working, the volunteer medic was not intentionally targeted.
This appeared to indicate that Najjar was hit either by a mis-aimed shot or a ricochet as she tended to an injured man, while wearing a white coat clearly marking her as a medical professional.
The Palestinian Medical Relief Society and eyewitnesses at the scene said Najjar was less than 100 meters from the border fence, treating a man who been struck by a tear gas canister, when she was shot.
After the incident, the UN’s envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a tweet that “Medical workers are #NotATarget!” and that “Israel needs to calibrate its use of force and Hamas need to prevent incidents at the fence.”
On Tuesday, the army said the official investigation into Najjar’s death, which is led by the Southern Command, was ongoing. The IDF said that the General Staff also launched its own probe into the incident, the findings of which will be presented to the Military Advocate General to determine if criminal proceedings are necessary.
Israel faces weekly attacks by violent protesters at the border. Israel says its forces have opened fire to stop attempts to harm soldiers, damage the fence, infiltrate Israel, and attempt to carry out attacks. Israel accuses the Hamas terrorist group, with which it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
Medical workers are #NotATarget! My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of #Razan_AlNajjar! #Palestinians in #Gaza have had enough suffering. #Israel needs to calibrate its use of force and Hamas need to prevent incidents at the fence. Escalation only costs more lives.
— Nickolay E. MLADENOV (@nmladenov) June 2, 2018
Throughout the weeks-long campaign to curb the border clashes, the IDF has insisted that troops have fired only at instigators. But military officials have acknowledged shooting some people by mistake due to the crowded and smoky conditions of the protests.
Last week, Palestinian terror groups fired over 100 rockets and mortars at towns and cities in southern Israel. The Israel Defense Forces responded with dozens of airstrikes on Hamas military targets. After almost 24 hours of fire, a tacit understanding and unofficial ceasefire began, though Gazan groups fired at Israel again late Saturday.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.