This article has been updated since first publication.
Israeli occupation forces shot dead a volunteer medic and injured dozens of people as they continued their indiscriminate attacks on Palestinians taking part in Great March of Return protests in Gaza for the 10th consecutive Friday.
Razan Ashraf Abdul Qadir al-Najjar, 21, was helping treat and evacuate wounded protesters east of Khan Younis when she was fatally shot on Friday evening.
She was about 100 meters away from the boundary fence with Israel at the moment she was shot and was wearing clothing clearly identifying her as a medic, the human rights group Al Mezan stated, citing eyewitnesses and its investigations. Al Mezan stated that al-Najjar was shot in the back.
However, on Saturday, the Associated Press reported, citing the Khan Younis hospital where al-Najjar was taken, that she “had a gunshot wound in the chest with an exit wound in the back.”
Al-Najjar had become known for her bravery and insistence on carrying out her medical rescue work despite the obvious danger.
She had previously been injured by tear gas inhalation, and on 13 April broke her wrist while running to attend to a wounded person. But al-Najjar refused to go to the hospital that day and continued working in the field.
“It’s my duty and responsibility to be there and aid those injured,” she told Al Jazeera.
She also bore witness to the final moments of some of those fatally wounded before her.
“It breaks my heart that some of the young men who were injured or killed made their wills in front of me,” she told Al Jazeera. “Some even gave me their accessories [as gifts] before they died.”
Al-Najjar spoke about her work in an earlier TV interview that was shared widely on social media following the news of her death:
Many Twitter users, especially from Gaza, paid tribute to al-Najjar:
Palestinian media shared images of al-Najjar’s family and colleagues mourning her death:
Hands in the air
The medical vest al-Najjar was wearing, displayed by her mother in this video, shows a hole in the back of the garment:
A statement released by the health ministry in Gaza on Saturday said that al-Najjar was part of a team of paramedics who “went to evacuate the wounded, raising both hands, as an affirmation of not posing any danger to the heavily armed occupation forces.”
“The Israeli occupation forces fired live bullets directly at Razan’s chest and wounded several other paramedics,” the health ministry added.
The ministry also released a video it said showed al-Najjar and colleagues walking towards the boundary fence with their hands in the air shortly before al-Najjar was shot:
On Saturday the UN special representative for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, tweeted that “medical workers are not a target. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Razan al-Najjar.”
However Mladenov failed to condemn Israel’s actions, calling on it instead to “calibrate its use of force.”
On Saturday, thousands marched in al-Najjar’s funeral, as colleagues carried her body, draped with the Palestinian flag and the blood-drenched medical vest she was wearing when she was shot:
Attacks on medics
Al-Najjar is the second rescue worker to be killed by Israeli forces since the Great March of Return protests began on 30 March. According to the health ministry in Gaza, more than 200 others have been injured and 37 ambulances have been damaged.
About an hour before he was shot, Abu Hassanein had helped rescue one of his colleagues, the Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani who had been injured by an Israeli bullet.
Loubani later told The Electronic Intifada Podcast how he was shot in the leg when everything was quiet around him: “No burning tires, no smoke, no tear gas, nobody messing around in front of the buffer zone. Just a clearly marked medical team well away from everybody else.”
This Friday, as they have every week, Israeli forces fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at Palestinians along Gaza’s eastern boundary, injuring almost 100 people, more than 30 of them with live bullets, according to Al Mezan.
“Protesters presented no danger or threat to the safety of the soldiers, which confirms that the violations committed by these forces are grave and systematic and amount to war crimes,” the human rights group stated.
Since the end of March, Israeli forces have killed 129 people in Gaza including 15 children, 98 of them during protests, according to Al Mezan.
As Israel continued to add to the staggering toll on Friday, the health system in Gaza was already beyond coping with the accumulation of people injured by the apparent use of fragmenting ammunition that causes horrifying injuries requiring intensive and complex treatment and often leaving victims with permanent disabilities.
More than 13,000 people have been injured since the start of the protests, including those who suffered due to tear gas inhalation. Of the more than 7,000 people who suffered injuries other than by tear gas, more than half were shot with live ammunition.
On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced it was dispatching two teams of war surgeons and medical supplies to Gaza to shore up a healthcare system it said was on the “brink of collapse.”
The ICRC said the priority for its six-month mission will be to treat gunshot wound victims, among them about 1,350 patients who will need three to five operations each.
“Such a caseload would overwhelm any health system,” the ICRC stated. “In Gaza, the situation is worsened by chronic shortages of drugs, equipment and electricity.”
The sustained protests in Gaza are to call for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands now in Israel, and to demand an end to Israel’s more than decade-long siege of the territory.
Gaza’s two million residents are being “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death,” United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Friday.
Zeid also told the council that there is “little evidence” that Israel is doing anything to minimize casualties.
He confirmed that protesters’ “actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.”
Zeid spoke to the council as it was considering a draft resolution on sending an international war crimes probe to Gaza.
Last week, the Human Rights Council voted by 29-2 to establish an independent inquiry into the violence in Gaza.
Only the United States and Australia voted against an inquiry, but several European Union governments including the UK and Germany were among the 14 that abstained.
Medical Aid for Palestinians, a charity that has been providing emergency assistance amid the growing calamity, and a dozen other organizations, have criticized the British government’s refusal to support an inquiry “to assess violations of international law in the context of large-scale civilian protests in Gaza.”
But attempts to hold Israel accountable continue amid the intransigent opposition of Israel’s backers.
On Friday evening, the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution put forward by Kuwait, deploring “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by the Israeli forces” and calling for “measures to guarantee the safety and protection” of Palestinian civilians.
It also called for an end to the blockade of Gaza and deplored “the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian areas.”
Ten countries, including permanent members Russia and France, voted in favor. Four, including Britain, abstained.
Haley then put forward her own draft resolution absolving Israel of any responsibility for the violence in Gaza and laying all blame for the situation on Hamas.
The United States was the only country to vote in favor.
- Great March of Return
- Razan al-Najjar
- Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
- attacks on medical workers
- attacks on paramedics
- Tarek Loubani
- Mousa Jaber Abu Hassanein
- war crimes
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- Medical Aid for Palestinians
- UN Human Rights Council
- United Nations Security Council
- Nikki Haley
- Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
- United Kingdom
- Nickolay Mladenov