Photo: Razan al-Najar’s blood-stained white tunic was carried by mourners. Source: AFP.
The death of 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al-Najar in Gaza has prompted international outcry and an investigation by Israeli officials. Al-Najar had been shot by Israeli Security forces as she approached the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel on June 1st. Her death comes as hundreds of Palestinian protesters have been killed by the Israeli military near the border in a recent round of protests.
Al-Najar’s funeral procession on June 2nd drew thousands of Palestinians, including uniformed medical workers, who are in high demand after thousands have been injured or killed since protests began in March.
On Saturday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator released a statement condemning the death of al-Najar. Three days later, Israel’s military issued a statement on Twitter calling her death unintentional and stating that “no shots were deliberately aimed at her”. A follow-up tweet stated that there will be an additional investigation.
The current series of protests in Palestine began in March, pushing for the end of an 11-year blockade of Gaza. Israel claims that these protests are staged by members of the Islamist group Hamas as a way to promote attacks against Israel by using women and children to storm the border fence.
As of June 5th, Israeli Security forces along the border have killed more than 115 Palestinian protesters. Although the international community has decried this excessive use of force, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on June 1st that condemns Israel’s actions. The Trump Administration blames the protests on Hamas.
Furthermore, Al-Najar’s death comes more than a week after the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israeli responses to protests in Gaza. The power of the ICC investigations are limited, however, because Israel refuses to recognize the Court’s authority.
Despite Israeli and American allegations accusing Hamas of inciting violence, most protesters are unarmed. The rising number of casualties at these Friday protests therefore shows a concerning response from Israeli forces against widely peaceful protests.This excessive use of force at the border is part of a continuing trend against both Gaza and the West Bank. Despite a recent decrease in the total number of protestors due to Ramadan, the number of casualties has continued to rise.
Statements by the Israeli military also continue to equivocate peaceful protestors, small groups of non-peaceful protesters, and extremist groups. These mischaracterizations have been used to justify violent responses towards nonviolent protesters, resulting in unjust casualties. Nonviolent organizers should continue to promote non-violent methods in these protests and continue to condemn any violent response.