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.
Colleagues of Razan Al Najjar react as they look at her body at a hospital morgue in Gaza. Reuters
“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 occupation soldiers fired two or three bullets from across the fence, according to a witness, hitting Al Najjar in the upper body.
She was pronounced dead soon after.
Palestinian paramedics mourn over the death of their colleague Razan Al Najjar in a hallway at Khan Yunis hospital in Gaza. AFP
Al 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.
Father (2nd-L) of Razan Al Najjar holds her jacket covered with blood during her funeral. AFP
The weeks of protests, called the Great Return March, have largely been orchestrated by Hamas, the Islamist 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 taken by Israel when it 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.
File photo: Razan Al Najar, right, reacts to tear gas as she works at the scene of clashes at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 1, 2018. Reuters
On Friday, a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for using “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians failed when it was vetoed by the United States, a chief ally of Israel.
On Friday thousands of Palestinians took part in demonstrations at five locations along the border fence.
This was the scene that Al 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, Ebrahim Al Najjar, 30, a relative of hers.
Other witnesses and the Gaza Health Ministry offered a slightly different version of events, saying that Al 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.
Al Najjar was a resident of Khuzaa, a farming village near the border with Israel, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Her father, Ashraf Al Najjar, had a shop that sold motorcycle parts, which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike during the 2014 war between Israel and the militant group, he said.
He has since been unemployed.
The eldest of six children, Al Najjar did not score well enough in her high school exams to attend university, Al Najjar said.
Instead, she trained for two years as a paramedic at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younus and became a volunteer of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, a nongovernmental health organisation.
Al Najjar, 44, said his daughter rose before dawn on Friday to eat and pray before the start of the daily, sunrise-to-sunset Ramadan fast.
That was the last time he saw her.
When we met her at a protest camp in Khan Younis last month, she said her father was proud of what she did.
“We have one goal,” she said, “to save lives and evacuate people. And to send a message to the world: Without weapons, we can do anything.”
On Friday, she was less than 100 yards from the fence when she was bandaging the man struck by the tear gas canister, Ebrahim Al Najjar said.
The man was taken away in an ambulance, and other paramedics tended to Al Najjar, who was suffering the effects of the tear gas.
Then shots rang out, and Al Najjar fell to the ground.
Ebrahim carried her away, with the help of two others, and accompanied her in the ambulance.
“Razan was not shooting,” Ebrahim said.
“Razan was saving souls and treating the wounded.”
She arrived at a field hospital in serious condition, the hospital manager, Dr. Salah Al Rantisi, said. She was then transferred to the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younus, where she died in the operating room.
In a video interview on Saturday, a woman identified as Al Najjar’s mother held up a blood-soaked vest and said, “This is my daughter’s weapon with which she was fighting the Zionists.”
The woman also held up two unopened bandage rolls she said she had found in the vest and said, “These were her ammunition.”