It seems that the killing of paramedic Razan al-Najjar in June by an Israeli snipers was not a tragic one-time occurrence. Her colleague, Abdullah al-Qatati, joined her on Friday, hours after a truce brokered by Egypt and the United Nations envoy to the region was declared in Gaza and after two hot nights in which two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.
Al-Qattati, 22, was shot in the chest near Rafah in southern Gaza while treating Ali al-Alloul, 55, who was also killed at the same time. The Gaza Health Ministry reported that more than 200 protesters were injured during the 20th weekly protest of the Great March of Return.
“Yes, Abdullah was armed,” his colleague Mohammed Sahweel, 27, said in the Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah, “he was armed with bandages and surgical facemarks.”
“Does a paramedic deserve a bullet in the chest for rushing behind the injured boys?” Sahweel wondered in tears.
According to Al-Qatati’s colleagues who gathered outside the hospital morgue, he was a summer camp supervisor throughout the week except Fridays, when he served as a paramedic.
In a video taken of Al-Qatati’s mother as she realized her son death, she collapsed and said: “Stop telling lies, do not tell me he was killed, Abdullah must be wounded and will be back to me again after get recovered.. Get back to me darling!”
On June 1, the 20-year-old al-Najjar was shot in the chest with the single bullet, exiting through her back, while she was trying to help wounded demonstrators in Gaza near the perimeter fence with Israel.
An investigation conducted by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem concluded that Israeli security forces deliberately shot and killed al-Najjar, contradicting the Israeli army’s claims that it was an accident.
Last month, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that an internal Israeli investigation was set to absolve its military of responsibility for the dozens of unarmed protesters killed by live fire during the Great March of Return.
For the 20th consecutive weekly protest, a few thousand protesters had gathered in different locations along the border with Israel, setting tires ablaze and throwing stones. Those weekly protesters are calling for an end to the decade-long Israeli blockade of Gaza and the return of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes inside Israel, which they fled or were expelled from during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.
The protest this Friday took place following extensive Israeli raids on Gaza on Thursday, while Palestinians launched of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds on Wednesday night. It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.
Late on Thursday, an Israeli air raid flattened a five-story building which hosted a cultural center in Gaza City. The European Union said Gaza and Israel are “dangerously close” to a new conflict, calling for urgent “de-escalation” to keep civilians from further risk. Reserve General Doron Almog, former head of Israel’s southern command which deals with Gaza, told army radio on Friday morning that the next 24 hours would be crucial.
At least 172 Palestinians have been killed since protests began on March 30. Most were killed by Israeli fire during the protests but others died in air strikes.
For many in Gaza, the situation has become so dire that they protest despite the risk of facing live fire by Israeli soldiers.
Originally, the protests were to take place until May 15, known as Nakba Day, marking the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the creation of Israel.
However, with no alternatives, many Palestinians have continued to protest on a weekly basis after Nakba Day.