Palestinians say female medic killed, 100 injured in Gaza fence clashes

Palestinians fire on IDF vehicle, set off hand grenade and light several fields ablaze with incendiary kites as thousands riot along border

Volunteer paramedic Razan al-Najjar, 21, center, is seen before reportedly being shot in her chest by Israeli troops during a protest east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Friday, June 1, 2018 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Volunteer paramedic Razan al-Najjar, 21, center, is seen before reportedly being shot in her chest by Israeli troops during a protest east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Friday, June 1, 2018 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A young Palestinian woman volunteering as a medic with the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza was shot and killed by the IDF during a series of violent riots along the Gaza border on Friday, the ministry said, adding that 100 people were wounded.

The army said it was investigating the report, noting that “thousands of rioters” had gathered at five locations along the border, “burning tires adjacent to the security fence and attempting to damage security infrastructure.”

The army said that an IDF vehicle came under fire during the riots and that a Palestinian who breached the border fence in northern Gaza planted a grenade that exploded. No Israeli soldiers were injured.

The army said soldiers were using riot dispersal means against the protesters and live fire in accordance with IDF regulations.

Palestinian protesters evacuate female medic Razan al-Najjar, 21, near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, during a protest east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Friday, June 1, 2018. Palestinians said Najjar was shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers and died later at hospital (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Palestinians identified the dead woman as Razan al-Najjar, 21. She was shot near Khan Yunis in the south of the territory, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, bringing the toll of Gazans killed by Israeli fire since the end of March to 123, according to a ministry count.

Najjar was less than 100 yards from the border fence, treating a man who been struck by a tear gas canister, when she was shot, according a relative, Ibrahim al-Najjar, who was there and who said he carried her to an ambulance.

Israel says it is facing weekly attacks by violent protesters at the border. It says the riots are orchestrated by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.

According to Qudra, Najjar was a volunteer with the ministry, wearing the white uniform of a medic when she was shot in the chest.

Palestinians said she was killed while attending to a wounded protester near the border fence.

“I told her it was dangerous to approach (the fence) but she answered that she was not afraid to die and wanted to help the young man,” a fellow medic told Gaza reporters, according to Haaretz.

Palestinian relatives of paramedic Razan al-Najjar carry away her body from the morgue in Khan Younis hospital in the southern Gaza Strip on June 1, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Said KHATIB)

The Gaza ministry said 100 Palestinians were injured during the riots, 40 of them from live fire.

The Palestinian rioters also sent fire kites over the fence on Friday, causing three large blazes in nearby Israeli fields.

The army said some 3,000 people were taking part in the demonstrations in five places.

A Palestinan protester cuts a section of barbed wire on the border fence with Israel, east of Jabalia in the central Gaza Strip on June 1, 2018. (AFP/Mohammed Abad)

Firefighters were trying to extinguish the blazes on the Israeli side. Kites carrying incendiary devices have caused massive damage to fields and nature reserves in Israel.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank some 122,000 Palestinians traveled to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, the army said, while another 8,200 prayed at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Drone images show the massive destruction caused by fire kites to the Be’eri Nature Reserve, adjacent to Gaza. (Credit: DRONEIMAGEBANK)

This is the third Friday of the holy month of Ramadan and the number of Palestinians who traveled to the city for Friday afternoon prayers was the largest yet this year, according to army statistics.

“IDF troops are deployed in reinforced numbers and are operating along with the Shin Bet, Civil Administration, Border Police and Israel Police in order to allow the Ramadan prayers, as well defending communities and roads and preserving order and security in the area,” the army said.

The army also said it was prepared for a renewal of the violent demonstrations on the Gaza border which have become a regular Friday occurrence since March 30 when the Palestinians held their first weekly “March of Return” protest.

Muslim worshippers pray near the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, during third Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on June 1, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

The violent demonstrations were initially slated to end by May 15, when the Palestinians mark Nakba Day commemorating the displacement that followed Israel’s Independence War in 1948. But Hamas leaders said they want them to continue. Turnout at the past three weeks’ clashes has been far smaller than in the initial weeks.

The border tensions comes following a week that saw the worst escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war in Gaza. Earlier this 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 both sides have described it as fragile.

A senior army official said Thursday he expected major border protests to resume next week, when the Palestinian mark Naksa Day — the June 5 commemoration by Palestinians of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War. However, he estimated that they would be smaller than those on May 14 and 15, after the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

In the May 14-15 protests, over 60 Palestinians — almost all of them members of the Hamas or Islamic Jihad terror groups — were killed in clashes with the IDF.

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 Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.

Israeli officials said that Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, was trying to get mobs of Gazans through the fence, including its own gunmen, potentially to carry out attacks inside Israel, and that the IDF’s primary obligation was to ensure that did not happen.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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