World News

Israel Says Palestinian Medic’s Death in Gaza Was Unintentional

Posted June 5, 2018 2:27 p.m. EDT

Israel’s military said Tuesday that the killing of a young Palestinian volunteer medic at a Gaza City fence protest last week was unintentional and that only “a small number of bullets were fired” by its soldiers.

The comment by the Israel Defense Forces, posted on its English-language Twitter account, provided the first substantive detail of the Israeli version of the killing, which has been widely condemned by international humanitarian and rights groups. The comment did not explicitly attribute the death to Israeli actions.

The medic, identified by her Palestinian passport as Rouzan al-Najjar, 20, has quickly become a symbol of heroism to Palestinians and their supporters. Her first name has sometimes been rendered as Razan.

She was the 119th Palestinian killed in the three-month-old Gaza fence protest campaign, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Israel has argued that the protests are a guise by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, to invade Israeli territory and terrorize civilians. Israeli officials have said the military has acted legally and justifiably in the protests to prevent a breach of the fence by the protesters, and that live ammunition has been used only as a last resort and under strict guidelines.

Most of the Palestinian protesters are unarmed, but some have lobbed firebombs and attempted to break through the fence. Some have hurled rocks and launched flaming kites over the fence into Israel to start fires.

No Israelis have been killed in the protests. Most of those killed on the Gaza side were shot by Israeli forces, half of them in a single day, May 14, at the peak of the campaign.

While the Israelis have rejected criticism that their response to the protests has been disproportionate, the Israeli military appeared to be treating the killing of Najjar as a case that required further scrutiny.

Thousands of people attended the funeral of Najjar in Gaza on Saturday. A group of United Nations agencies issued a joint statement expressing outrage at the killing of an unarmed medical relief worker.

Witness accounts said Najjar was shot two or three times in the upper body by Israeli soldiers positioned across the fence as she was seeking to aid an injured protester, about an hour before dusk on Friday.

The Israeli military’s Twitter post, which misstated her age as 22, said an initial examination had found “that a small number of bullets were fired during the incident, and that no shots were deliberately or directly aimed towards her.”

A follow-up Twitter post said the episode would be further examined by the Israeli military and that the findings would be passed to the chief military lawyer.

The protests along the fortified fence that separates Gaza from Israeli territory have become an acute flash point in the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians have been rallying at the fence every Friday since the end of March, protesting an 11-year-old blockade of Gaza and demanding the right to return to lands that are now part of Israel.

A resolution presented to the U.N. Security Council on Friday to condemn the Israeli actions at the Gaza fence was vetoed by the United States, which contended the wording was one-sided against its Middle East ally.