Israeli army kills Palestinian nurse in Gaza border protest

Palestinian nurse Razan Al-Najar was killed by Israeli forces at the Gaza border. (Reuters)
Updated 02 June 2018
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Israeli army kills Palestinian nurse in Gaza border protest

  • Razan Al-Najar’s death brought to 119 the number of Palestinians killed in weekly demonstrations launched on March 30 in the Gaza Strip.
  • Najar, a 21-year-old volunteer medic, was shot as she ran toward the fortified border fence, east of the south Gaza city of Khan Younis, in a bid to reach a casualty.

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli forces killed a Palestinian nurse on Friday as she tried to help a wounded protester at the Gaza border, according to health officials and a witness, while Israel said militants had attacked its troops with gunfire and a grenade.
Razan Al-Najar’s death brought to 119 the number of Palestinians killed in weekly demonstrations launched on March 30 in the Gaza Strip, an enclave controlled by the Islamist group Hamas and long subject to grinding Israeli and Egyptian embargoes.
Najar, a 21-year-old volunteer medic, was shot as she ran toward the fortified border fence, east of the south Gaza city of Khan Younis, in a bid to reach a casualty, a witness said.
Wearing a white uniform, “she raised her hands high in a clear way, but Israeli soldiers fired and she was hit in the chest,” the witness, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.
An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Najar’s killing. Israeli officers have previously said that army snipers target only people posing a threat, but that the bullets can sometimes run through them or ricochet, hitting bystanders.
Gazan medical officials said at least 100 Palestinians were wounded by army gunfire during Friday’s mass demonstrations.
In a separate statement, the Israeli military said its troops had acted to disperse “thousands of rioters” at five locations.
It said that “an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) vehicle was fired upon and a suspect was identified crossing the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip and planting a grenade which exploded as he returned to the Strip.”
There have been no Israeli casualties during the border confrontations, but Israel has reported extensive damage to farmland from firebomb-bearing kites flown over from Gaza.
The surge in violence at the border crescendoed this week to the most intensive shelling exchanges between Israel and Hamas and another Palestinian armed faction since a 2014. But the violence, which caused no fatalities, was reined in with Egyptian cease-fire mediation.
In the protests, billed as the “Great March of Return,” Palestinians have been calling for the right to return to lands lost to Israel during the 1948 war of its creation. Israel calls them a ploy to breach its border and deflect scrutiny from Hamas’ governance problems.
Israel’s lethal response has drawn international censure.
Friday’s turnout of protesters was less than in previous weeks, but is expected to grow next week as Palestinians mark the anniversary of Israel’s capture of the Gaza Strip and West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
Israel quit Gaza in 2005, but has elsewhere deepened settlements on occupied land. The demonstrations come at a time of growing frustration over the prospects for an independent Palestinian state or even a revival of peace talks, stalled since 2014.
At her house in Khan Younis, Najar’s mother collapsed in grief as she was handed her daughter’s blood-stained uniform.
A statement from Gaza’s Health Ministry mourned Najar as a “martyr.” Interviewed by Reuters interview in April, she said she would see the border protests through until their end.
“I am returning and not retreating,” Najar’s last Facebook post said. “Hit me with your bullets. I am not afraid.”


Israel-Russia ties tested after plane downed over Syria

Updated 7 min 59 sec ago
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Israel-Russia ties tested after plane downed over Syria

  • Analysts say they believe Russia and Israel will eventually move past the incident without severely limiting Israel’s freedom of action in Syria
  • Netanyahu has so far sought to strike a balance between expressing sorrow over the Russian deaths

JERUSALEM: The accidental downing of a Russian plane with 15 soldiers on board has tested relations between Moscow and Israel, which fears President Vladimir Putin will seek to curtail its actions in Syria as a result.
Analysts say they believe Russia and Israel will eventually move past the incident without severely limiting Israel’s freedom of action in Syria, where it has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets.
But Russia, whose plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses after an Israeli strike and strongly criticized Israel over it, has since announced it plans to send an advanced S-300 air defense system to the Syrian military.
It also says it will jam communications of planes that attack Syria from the Mediterranean.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far sought to strike a balance between expressing sorrow over the Russian deaths, stressing his commitment to cooperation with Moscow and vowing to continue to act against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.
“We will continue to act to prevent the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and continue the security coordination between the Israel Defense Forces and Russian army,” Netanyahu said Tuesday.
But Netanyahu’s government has little choice but to take into account Russia’s anger over the incident and the potential risk to Israeli aircraft, analysts say.
In deciding to provide Syria with the S-300 system, Russia overrode years of Israeli opposition to supplying President Bashar Assad’s regime with the technology.
Eran Lerman, former deputy director for foreign policy at Israel’s National Security Council, called it a “very serious issue” that could amount to an “intolerable situation from an Israeli perspective.”
But he added that it seems communication “channels remain open and operational.”
“We don’t work for the same purposes, but we have a common interest in preventing clashes,” said Lerman, adding that there are “mutual understandings” that can eventually prevail.
Israel and Russia put a hotline in place in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
In recent years, Israel has carried out repeated strikes against Iranian targets in Syria as well as what it says are advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.
It has hit Syrian sites where those targets were located.
Iran and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, two of Israel’s main enemies, are backing Assad in his country’s civil war alongside Russia.
Israel also remains technically at war with Syria.
The hotline — or “deconfliction mechanism” as diplomats refer to it — failed to prevent Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 military plane being shot down on September 17 by Syrian air defenses.
Syria was responding to an Israeli strike, and Russia accused the Israeli pilots of using its larger plane as “cover” while only giving one minute of advance notice for their raid.
Israel strongly denied the Russian version of events.
In a further sign of the seriousness of the Russian reaction, Netanyahu convened a meeting of his security council on Tuesday to discuss the issue before flying to New York for the UN General Assembly.
He said afterwards that he had agreed with Putin to have Israeli and Russian military teams meet soon to enhance coordination.
But Israel sees the stakes as too high to accept severe limitations on its actions against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, some analysts said.
Its pilots have already been trained to deal with the threat of the S-300, they say.
As for the Russians, they have not forgotten the 1970 battle when Israeli Phantom and Mirage planes destroyed Soviet MiGs stationed in Egypt in a matter of minutes, said Efraim Inbar, head of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies
Lerman does not believe the Russians are looking to escalate the situation, not wanting to compromise their gains in Syria.
But he believes that Russia will try to use the September 17 incident as a “bargaining chip in the larger game that they are playing with the United States and the international community.”
Russian expert Vladimir Sotnikov also does not see a severe downturn in relations.
“Russia’s only concern for now is to reach a settlement in the Syrian conflict because its armed forces are there,” he said.
“Israel is a very important partner for Moscow. It is an ally of the United States, with whom Moscow wants to renew dialogue.”