Woman who saved lives dies in Gaza


Khuzaa, Gaza Strip, June 3: She had become a fixture at the weekly protests along the fence dividing Gaza from Israel, a young, fresh-faced woman in a white paramedic’s uniform rushing into harm’s way to help treat the wounded.
As a volunteer emergency medical worker, she said she wanted to prove that women had a role to play in the conservative society of Gaza.
“Being a medic is not only a job for a man,” Razan al-Najjar, 20, said in an interview at a Gaza protest camp last month. “It’s for women, too.”
On Friday, the 10th week of the protest campaign, an hour before dusk, she ran forward to aid a demonstrator for the last time.
Israeli soldiers fired 2 or 3 bullets from across the fence, according to a witness, hitting Najjar in the upper body. She was pronounced dead soon after.
Najjar was the 119th Palestinian killed since the protests began in March, according to Gaza health officials. Hers was the only fatality registered on Friday.
An Israeli military spokesman, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, said he was aware of the reports of her death but had no immediate comment about the circumstances.
Called the Great Return March, the protests have largely been orchestrated by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, to draw attention to the 11-year blockade by Israel and Egypt of the coastal territory, and to press refugee claims to lands lost when Israel was established in 1948.
Most of those killed during the protests have been shot by Israeli snipers, half of them in a single day, May 14, the peak of the campaign. Israel has been criticised by human rights groups, which say it has used excessive force against the mostly unarmed protesters.
On Friday, a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for using “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians failed when it was vetoed by the US.
Israel has defended its use of live fire, saying it is protecting its border and the nearby communities against a mass breach of the fence.
The conflict exploded into a day of cross-border fighting on Tuesday when Islamic militants in Gaza fired scores of mortar shells and short-range rockets into southern Israel, and the Israeli Air Force bombed at least 65 military sites across the Palestinian coastal territory.
On Friday, the protests resumed, and thousands of Palestinians took part in what the Israeli military described as violent riots at 5 locations along the security fence, burning tires and throwing stones. One army vehicle was fired on and Palestinians planted a grenade that exploded on the Israeli side of the fence, the military said. This was the scene that Najjar dashed into in her white coat to tend to an elderly man who had been hit in the head by a tear-gas canister, according to a witness, Ibrahim al-Najjar, 30, a relative of Najjar’s.
Other witnesses and the Gaza Health Ministry offered a slightly different version of events, saying that Najjar and other paramedics were walking towards the fence with their arms raised on their way to evacuate injured protesters when she was shot in the chest.
(New York Times News Service)