KHUZAA, Gaza Strip — She had become a fixture at the weekly protests along the fence dividing the Gaza Strip from Israel, a young 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 Palestinian 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 in May. “It’s for women, too.”
An hour before dusk on Friday, the 10th week of the Palestinian protest campaign, she ran forward to aid a demonstrator for the last time.
Israeli soldiers fired two or three 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 Friday.
On Saturday, a group of United Nations agencies issued a statement expressing outrage over the killing of “a clearly identified medical staffer,” calling it “particularly reprehensible.”
The Israeli military has provided no explanation for the shooting but said Saturday that the case would be examined.
The military said it “has repeatedly warned civilians against approaching the fence and taking part in violent incidents and terrorist attacks and will continue to act professionally and determinedly to protect Israeli civilians and Israeli security infrastructure.”
The weeks of protests, called the Great Return March, have largely been orchestrated by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. They aim 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 in a single day, May 14, the peak of the campaign. Human rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force against the mostly unarmed protesters.
On Friday, a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel for using “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians failed when it was vetoed by the United States.
The conflict exploded into a day of cross-border fighting Tuesday, when Islamic militants in Gaza fired scores of mortar shells and short-range rockets into southern Israel. Israeli jets bombed at least 65 military sites across Gaza.
On Friday, the protests resumed. Thousands of Palestinians took part in what the Israeli military described as violent riots at five locations along the security fence, burning tires and throwing stones. One Israeli 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 toward the fence with their arms raised on their way to evacuate injured protesters when she was shot in the chest.