Israel says medic killed in Gaza was ‘human shield’

Palestinian mourners carry the body of 21 years old Razan al-Najjar during her funeral after she was shot dead by Israeli soldiers, in Khan Yunis on June 2, 2018
AFP

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel on Thursday said that a Palestinian medical volunteer shot dead during violence along the Gaza border had agreed to serve as a “human shield” during protests and clashes.

Spokespersons for the Israeli government and the army published the same tweet, quoting part of an interview with the young woman, Razan al-Najjar, in which she says she was acting as a “human shield”.

But the full quote she gave to Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen was cut short, leaving out the part where she said she was helping the injured.

“Razan al-Najjar was not an angel of mercy as Hamas is trying to market her,” Ofir Gendelman, the Arabic-language spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a tweet.

“Her admission in front of the cameras that she was a human shield for rioters proves how Hamas exploits even medics to service its terrorist goals.”

In the full interview to Al-Mayadeen, Najjar said: “I am here on the front lines as a human shield to protect the wounded.”

Since regular protests broke out on the Gaza-Israel border on March 30, Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas — the enclave’s Islamist Palestinian rulers — of using protesters as “human shields” to cover “terrorist” activities.

At least 125 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli fire since the protests began.

No Israeli has been killed.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008 and observe a tense ceasefire.

Najjar, 21, was shot in her chest on June 1 while wearing a white medical coat.

Palestinian medics said she was trying to provide care for injured protesters. 

Her death revived accusations of excessive use of force against the Israeli army. 

The army has denied it targeted her. 

The tweet published on Thursday shows another video in which young Palestinians place an object spewing gas in the hands of a young woman wearing a medical mask and presented as Najjar, who then throws the object into a field.

– ‘Protected by international law’ –

Gendelman said it was probably a tear gas cartridge fired by the Israeli army and retrieved by the young men. 

Israeli soldiers are not visible in the video and the group does not appear to be close to any clashes. 

“(She was) participating in riots; she supposedly came to the border in order to help wounded rioters. Nowhere in the world do you see medics participate in riots,” Gendelman told AFP.

He denied that cutting the video mid-sentence changed its meaning.

“As she acts as a human shield, it means that she is not a medic, it means that she serves as a human shield for terrorists.”

The health ministry in Gaza rejected Gendelman’s accusations.

“Anything the occupation says to justify its crime of killing Razan does not fool anyone… this is a crime that must be prosecuted in international courts,” health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

“​Medical teams are protected by international law,” he said.

In the interview with Al-Mayadeen, Najjar says no one encouraged her to work as a volunteer medic at the protests.

“I had enough power and courage to try… to save our martyrs and the injured,” she said.

In weeks of demonstrations along the border fence separating Gaza and Israel, protesters have called for Palestinians to be allowed to return to the land their families fled or were driven from in 1948 during the creation of Israel.

They have also called for Israel to end its decade-long blockade of Gaza.

Israel says the demonstrations are a cover for infiltrators who aim to cross the fence and target Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Protests peaked on May 14 when 61 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Israeli fire in demonstrations coinciding with the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

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