UN official condemns ‘reprehensible’ killing of Gaza medic

UN official condemns ‘reprehensible’ killing of Gaza medic

IDF investigating death of Razan Najjar, 21; social media videos indicate she was wearing clearly marked uniform

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)
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)

United Nations officials on Saturday condemned the killing of a volunteer medic on the Gaza border, saying that witness reports indicated she wore clothing that clearly identified her as a health worker.

“The killing of a clearly identified medical staffer by security forces during a demonstration is particularly reprehensible,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the local UN humanitarian coordinator.

Razan Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic, was fatally shot on Friday as she tried to help evacuate wounded near the Gaza border with Israel, Palestinian officials said.

Addressing Najjar’s death, the UN envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a Saturday 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 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 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.”

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

Thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of medical workers in white uniforms, took part Saturday in the funeral procession.

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.

On Friday, the Palestinians protested for the 10th week in a row. The military said some hurled grenades and pipe bombs at troops behind the border fence. Some 40 Palestinians were wounded and Najjar was the only one killed.

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.

The military said its troops operated “in accordance with standard operating procedures” and that it was investigating the incident.

Israel insists that throughout the weeks-long campaign its troops have fired only at instigators and that the Hamas terrorist group has been cynically using the demonstrations as cover to carry out attacks. But military officials have acknowledged shooting some people by mistake due to the crowded and smoky conditions of the protests.

The Khan Younis hospital said Najjar had a gunshot wound in the chest with an exit wound in the back.

Najjar’s body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag as the funeral procession started from the hospital and passed near her home in Khuzaa, a village near the Khan Younis that is close to the border and has served as one of five protest encampments across Gaza in recent weeks. She was the eldest of six siblings.

“I want the world to hear my voice … what’s my daughter’s fault?” asked her mother Sabreen, dressed in black and seated on a mattress in her living room. “She will leave a large emptiness at home.”

Al-Mezan, a Gaza-based rights group, said Najjar was 100 meters from the fence and wearing a clearly marked paramedic’s vest when she was shot.

Social media videos, and one captured by Associated Press footage, showed Najjar and a cohort of medics walking toward the fence and raising their hands to reach a wounded man lying on the ground. Najjar wore a dark blue headscarf and a white coat with the logo of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, where she volunteered.

Izzat Shatat, 23, a volunteering ambulance worker, said he and Najjar were set to announce their engagement at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. He said he was worried and asked her not to go to the border area Friday but she refused.

“She helped all people. She has never refused to help. She was the first to run toward anybody when he is shot,” he said in tears.

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