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Palestinian Woman Died Saving Lives on the Gaza Strip

Razan al-Najjar was a young 20-year-old whose job was saving lives. It started when she did not score well enough on her high school exams to get into university. Instead of giving up, she trained to become a paramedic.

The eldest of six children, Najjar lived with her family in the farming town of Khuza’a near the border of Israel, in the southern Gaza strip. On June 1, 2018, she woke up like she would any other morning, rising before dawn to pray before her daily Ramadan fast. However, her routine was broken when she never returned home.

Najjar commonly attended protests along the fence of the Gaza Strip. She wanted to play a part, despite being a woman in conservative Palestine.

Like any other day at the protests, Najjar was determined to help save lives. She wore a white paramedic’s coat, which was often spattered with her patients’ blood, and worked to keep others safe.

In an attempt to aid a demonstrator, Najjar was fatally shot two to three times by Israeli forces, whose goal was to protect their borders.

Photo by Miller on flickr

According to a relative, Najjar was looking to help an elderly man who had been hit in the head with a tear gas canister when she was killed.

Other witnesses, such as Gaza officials, state that Najjar and other paramedics were walking toward the fence with their arms raised on their way to evacuate injured protesters.

While it is unclear what Najjar was doing when she died, it is proven that she lived to help others. She was proud of her role as a paramedic.

“Being a medic is not only a job for a man,” Najjar said in a New York Times interview at a Gaza protest in May. “It’s for women too.”

United Nations agencies later issued a statement regarding Najjar’s death. They expressed outrage over the killing of “a clearly identified medical staffer.”

Israeli military provided no explanation for the death, but said that the case would be examined. Military officials did say, however, that they repeatedly warned civilians against approaching the fence.

Recently, Israeli forces found in an investigation that “no shots were deliberately or directly aimed” toward Najjar. According to the Israeli army, Palestinian gunmen were at the border with bullets and grenades at the time of Najjar’s death.

“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) constantly works to draw operational lessons and reduce the number of casualties in the area of the Gaza strip security fence,” military forces said. “Unfortunately, the Hamas terror organization deliberately and methodically places civilians in danger.”

Overall, the Israeli military worked to protect their side of the border from the Palestinian protesters, who they perceived to be causing the violence.

The protests that Najjar frequented were organized by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Israel perceives Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Protests have been aimed to lift the decade-long blockade between Israel and Egypt. Palestinian refugees and their descendants have also been attempting to return to their original homes, which were taken by Israel when it was established in 1948.

Most of the lives that have been taken during the protests have been due to Israeli snipers protecting their nation. Najjar was the 119th Palestinian and the second woman killed since the protests began in March.

A resolution was created by the United Nations Security Council, condemning Israel for using “excessive, disproportionate, and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians, but it was vetoed by the United States.

Thousands of people gathered in Gaza the Saturday after Najjar’s death. In this large group were many medical workers dressed in white, holding Palestinian flags and photos of Najjar. Some individuals also started throwing stones over the Israeli side of the fence.

While other forces may see the Palestinians as violence-inducing, Najjar saw otherwise.

“We have one goal, to save lives and evacuate people,” she told the New York Times. “And to send a message to the world: Without weapons, we can do anything.”

Featured Image by Ahmed Abu Hameeda on Unsplash

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