Thousands at funeral for Gaza volunteer medic killed on Israel border

Thousands at funeral for Gaza volunteer medic killed on Israel border

IDF says it is investigating shooting of 21-year-old Razan al-Najjar; Arab Israeli MK calls it a 'war crime'

Palestinian mourners carry the body of  21-year-old Palestinian paramedic Razan al-Najjar at her funeral in Khan Yunis on June 2, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinian mourners carry the body of 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic Razan al-Najjar at her funeral in Khan Yunis on June 2, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral Saturday of a young female volunteer medic, who Palestinians say was shot and killed by the IDF while tending the injured during violent protests on the Gaza border.

Razan al-Najjar, 21, a volunteer with the Gaza health ministry, was fatally shot in the chest near Khan Younis on Friday, Palestinian officials said.

Ambulances and medical crews attended the funeral, with her father holding the white blood-stained medics’ jacket she wore when she was shot, as mourners called for revenge.

The IDF said in a Saturday statement that it was investigating Najjar’s killing.

The Israeli army on Friday said the violence included “thousands of rioters” at five locations along the border, “burning tires adjacent to the security fence and attempting to damage security infrastructure.”

Shots were fired at an army vehicle and a Palestinian had crossed into Israel, planted a grenade and returned to Gaza, the army said.

Razan al-Najjar (R), a 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic, tends to an injured colleague during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

After the funeral, dozens of mourners headed to the fence and started throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers on the other side. The Hamas-run health ministry said five protesters were wounded by Israeli fire.

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.

“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.

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 on Friday.

“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 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.”

The criticism was echoed by Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi, who called the shooting “a despicable war crime committed by a cowardly and criminal sniper who saw a nurse with a white coat and pulled the trigger.”

In addition to the comments made at a conference in Wadi Ara, Tibi sarcastically tweeted that the sniper is a soldier in the “most moral army in the world,” a description frequently used by Israeli politicians and advocates to describe the IDF.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Alster/FLASH90)

Following her death, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh MK tweeted that “the life of the caring angel was taken away.”

Najjar had given an interview to the New York Times last 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 told the Times.

“We have one goal. To save lives and evacuate people. And to send a message to the world: Without weapons, we can do anything.”

Najjar had reportedly been among the first volunteer medics at the protest camp in Khan Younis.

“The strength that I showed the first day of the protests, I dare you to find it in anyone else,” she told the Times.

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)

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.

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

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.

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