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Razan Ashraf Abdul Qadir al-Najjar (Arabic: رزان أشراف عبد القادر النجار Rouzān ‘Ashrāf ‘Abd al-Qādir an-Najjār; 13 September 1997 – 1 June 2018) was a Palestinian nurse/paramedic who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) while volunteering as a medic during the 2018 Gaza border protests. She was fatally hit by a bullet ricochet from a shot on the ground by an Israeli soldier as she tried to help evacuate the wounded near Israel’s border fence with Gaza.The IDF first denied that she was targeted, while not ruling out that she may have been hit by indirect fire. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that al-Najjar was shot intentionally.
The eldest of six children born to Ashraf al-Najjar, she was a resident of Khuzaa, a village near the border with Israel.
The IDF released footage in which she purportedly admitted to participating in the protests as a human shield at the request of Hamas. The video was later found to be a clip from an interview with a Lebanese television station that had been edited by the IDF to take al-Najjar’s comments out of context. In the unedited video, she didn’t mention Hamas and called herself a “rescuing human shield to protect and save the wounded at the front lines”, with everything following “human shield” trimmed out of the Israeli clip. The IDF was widely criticized for tampering with the video in order to chip away at her image.
According to witness testimony, al-Najjar was shot after she and other medics, walking with their hands up and wearing white vests, approached the border fence in order to treat a wounded protester.
Najjar’s father used to be employed in Israel in the scrap metal business until restrictions disallowed travel across the border. He then worked in the Strip as a motorbike mechanic but was unemployed at the time of her death. The family lived in an apartment supplied by relatives in Khuza’a, within eyeshot of Israeli soldiers stationed over the border. Their area had a four-meter-high (13 ft) concrete wall installed to shield local residents from Israeli fire.
She, one of a family of eight, grew up witnessing three wars, that of 2008-2009, then Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense when a teenager, aged 16, and shortly afterwards the 7 week 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict in which her neighborhood was devastated. Too poor to afford a university education, she studied calligraphy and took on coursework in nursing.
Her formal training after volunteering was as a paramedic in Khan Younis at Nasser Hospital and she became an active member of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, a non-governmental health organization. She wore the white coat of the medics and a medics vest with bandages, and was attending those wounded during protests at the border fence between Gaza and Israel during Ramadan. According to her mother, Najjar attended every Friday event from 7am and 8pm, and would return home spattered with the blood of those whom she had tended care to. Even before her death, she had become something of an icon within the Gaza Strip, with local media published many images of her online, including photos of her bandaging the head of a youth who had been wounded.
Al-Najjar already believed the Israeli army was targeting her months before her death. In April, she told Al Jazeera media that Israeli soldiers had shot directly at her multiple times in a warning not to tend to the wounded in the protests.
She was 21 years old at the time of her death. Najjar was a fixture at the Khan Younis camp and spoke about her role at the fence in an interview, relishing in the idea that a woman could brave the dangers. “In our society women are often judged,” she said. “But society has to accept us. If they don’t want to accept us by choice, they will be forced to accept us because we have more strength than any man. The strength that I showed the first day of the protests, I dare you to find it in anyone else.”
Some 25 Gaza medical personnel and first responders assisting people injured during the border protests, from 30 March to 2 June, had been wounded or killed by Israeli snipers. On 14 May 2018, Dr. Tarek Loubani, clearly identifiable as a doctor, was shot in the leg close to the separation fence, at a site where no protests, fire or smoke occurred. According to his account, an hour later, Musa Abuhassanin, a paramedic who had come to help him was killed with a shot to the chest while performing another rescue mission that day. On the day of her death 100 demonstrating Palestinians were wounded, 40 shot by Israeli live fire.
Medical personnel fine-tuned strategies to avoid being mistaken by snipers for protestors, wearing white jackets with reflective, high-visibility stripes, moving in teams in the direction of casualties, and holding their hands above their heads as they negotiate a pathway past burning tires and plumes of smoke. When in the vicinity of the border, and within speaking range of the Israeli troops, they shout in unison: “Don’t shoot. There are wounded.” The usual Israeli response was to scream at them to go back.
Al-Najjar was a first responder at the “Great March of Return” that resulted in the 2018 Gaza border protests. On 1 June, the third Friday of Ramadan, 3,000 protestors demonstrated near the fence and Najjar was one of five paramedics on a shift, and had taken all of these precautions according to another of the group, Faris al-Qidra, and was even wearing surgical gloves. They went to rescue a man who was calling for help’ after being hit in the face by a tear-gas canister, some 20 metres from the perimeter. Other accounts state the distance as 100 metres from the border. Three shots were heard. A relative, Ibrahim al-Najjar, was one of those who carried her to a waiting ambulance. Shortly afterwards, a Boston-born American woman serving in the IDF was falsely accused on social media of being the sniper in question. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights performed an investigation that found al-Najjar was clearly marked as a paramedic and that she “did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to the ISF when she was shot”. The report concluded that the Commission “found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers intentionally shot health workers, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such.”
Al-Najjar’s death came before she and her fiancé Izzat Shatat were to announce their engagement at the end of Ramadan.
Portrait graffiti of 21-year-old nurse Razan al-Najjar with a flower by the Palestinian Artist Taghi Al Din on West Bank side of the Israeli West Bank barrier in Bethlehem from 2018.