Mainstream media sources often demonstrate intentional or unintentional bias against Israel. So where do you go to find news about Israel and the Middle East? Once a week, we post an Israel News Recap (sans rhetoric) to keep you up to date on the latest developments.
As the protests and riots at the Gaza-Israel border entered their tenth week, the death toll was again updated, this time with the name of a young Palestinian medic.
Palestinian Medic Killed, IDF to Investigate
Razan Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic, was shot in the chest allegedly by Israeli fire as she worked with a team of medics to evacuate wounded protesters from around the vicinity of the border fence, according to the Associated Press. Najjar is just one of about 115 (give or take a dozen depending on the source) Palestinians killed at the border since the “March of Return” protests began in March. Her death has drawn international condemnation and outpourings of sympathy for her family.
The IDF has launched an investigation into her death. An initial statement from the military held that the troops operated “in accordance with standard operating procedures.” The standard operating procedures referred to here is the standing and well-known order to fire on anyone approaching the border fence. Al Jazeera reported that the young medic and the team she was with were approaching the border fence wearing clearly marked medic uniforms with their arms raised to retrieve a wounded protester who had managed to breach the fence.
Najjar was buried on Saturday as thousands mourned with her family at her funeral before returning to the border to protest. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that five more were wounded that day.
Najjar’s death is the latest in the mass protests organized by Hamas on the Israel-Gaza border since March. Originally intended to last until mid-May, the protests have continued into June with weekly flare-ups that have left several wounded if not dead by Israeli fire. The protesters set up camps to sustain long-term protests with a goal to pressure Israel to return land they say was stolen during modern Israel’s establishing days. Additionally, the situation in Gaza has deteriorated massively over the past several years to the point of a humanitarian crisis. Failed infrastructure, high unemployment, and the military conflict between the ruling Hamas faction, Israel, and other Islamic terror groups has prevented any development and severely limited aid access into Gaza.
The desperate situation of Gaza’s civilian population created a golden opportunity for Hamas to mobilize the masses into the protest on the border.
Israel has held firm to the position that they must defend their border from terrorists who seek to cross into Israeli communities and commit acts of terror. Israel cites myriad examples of tragic successes and blocked attempts. The IDF insists that they use live ammunition at the border only after all other options have been exhausted, but have also acknowledged that due to the crowd size and smoke there are bound to be unintended casualties. Of the 115 or so killed, both Israel and Hamas have claimed that the majority of the casualties are Hamas operatives or members, but Najjar’s death is a sickening reminder of the human and moral cost of this kind of conflict.
Sniper Misidentified on Facebook, Death Threats Follow
Not long after word of Najjar’s death began to spread, the face of a young IDF soldier also spread like wildfire across social media. Dozens of posts identified a smiling, female, IDF soldier as Rebecca, the sniper who allegedly shot Najjar, the Palestinian paramedic.
This is completely false.
The soldier, whose photo and description was pulled from a post made by the IDF four years ago, has been out of the army for two and a half years and never served as a sniper. There was no proof whatsoever on which to base this claim, but that didn’t stop a torrent of death threats and widespread condemnation after the post was shared on several prominent social media pages.
The Times of Israel reports that the post seems to have originated from a woman in Chicago with a large following, but it quickly spread to pages such as “Freedom for Gaza,” which has over 100,000 followers. The Freedom for Gaza page has since updated the original libelous post, which was shared thousands of times, to note that it is false, but made little of their error saying, “Whether it was this sniper or another one, does it really matter? They are ALL killing innocent Palestinian men, women and children.”
Over One Hundred Rockets Launched from Gaza
In the past week over one hundred rockets targeting Israel have launched from Gaza, the largest military escalation between military factions in the Gaza strip since the large-scale protests started in March.
The bulk of the bombardment occurred last weekend as mortars and rockets fell indiscriminately in southern Israel. No one was killed and no injuries were reported. Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted most of the shells and rockets, but some made it through including one that landed in the play yard of a kindergarten just hours before it was scheduled to be full of children.
The IDF publicized the incident showing the damage that the shrapnel inflicted on the surrounding buildings as an example of Hamas and Islamic terror tactics. The Israeli military responded with airstrikes against targets in Gaza.
A new barrage from the Gaza Strip activated defense systems and sirens in southern Israel this Saturday night, and again Israel targeted a new wave of Hamas military sites with airstrikes.
Given the failure of their barrages to inflict much serious damage, Hamas has turned to more creative tactics lately such as the use of flaming kites flown across the border and dropped into Israeli fields. Hundreds of acres have burned causing road closure and damaging at least one-third of a park reserve, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Tractor Ramming Averted, Driver Shot
A 35-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by an Israeli soldier as he tried to ram a small construction tractor into a group of soldiers.
No soldiers or civilians were wounded in the incident, which occurred near Hebron. The Jerusalem Post reports that a soldier standing on a nearby rooftop saw the attack and believed there was a risk to civilians and shot dead the suspect. Palestinian media reports that the suspect was Rami Sabarnah, a father of four from the West Bank.
This attack comes a week after an IDF soldier was killed during a West Bank raid after a large slab of granite was dropped on him from several stories up.
Israel Joins Massive NATO Drill
For the first time, the IDF is sending troops to participate in a large-scale NATO drill near Russia.
The U.S.-led Saber Strike 18 drill boasts 18,000 troops from nineteen countries and will take place in Poland. Though Israel is not a NATO member, they are still participating in the drill albeit to a small extent. Ha’aretz reports that the IDF is sending two dozen paratroopers to participate in the exercise in Eastern Europe.