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Razan al-Najjar

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Razan al-Najjar
Razan al-Najar.jpg
Died1 June 2018(2018-06-01) (aged 21)
Cause of deathGunshot
Known forAiding injured Palestinian protesters

Razan Ashraf Abdul Qadir al-Najjar (Arabic: رزان أشراف عبد القادر النجارRazān ‘Ashrāf ‘Abd al-Qādir an-Najjār; 1997[1] – 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 shot in the chest by an Israeli soldier as she, reportedly with her arms raised to show she was unarmed,[2] tried to help evacuate the wounded near Israel's border fence with Gaza.[3] The IDF first denied that she was targeted, while not ruling out that she may have been hit by indirect fire.[4] Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said that al-Najjar was shot intentionally.[5]

The eldest of six children born to Ashraf al-Najjar (b. 1974), she was a resident of Khuzaa, a village near the border with Israel.[6]

The IDF released footage in which she purportedly admitted to participating in the protests as a human shield at the request of Hamas.[7][8] 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.[7] 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.[7][8]

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.[8]

Early life

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 metre high concrete wall installed to shield local residents from Israeli fire.[9]

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 neighbourhood was devastated.[9] Too poor to afford a university education, she studied calligraphy and took on coursework in nursing.[9]


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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[9]

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.[5]

She was 21 years old at the time of her death. Iyad Abuheweila, a journalist, interviewed her during the protests. Ms. Najjar was a fixture at the Khan Younis camp and spoke about her role at the fence, relishing in the idea that a woman could brave the dangers.[10] "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."[10]


Some 25 Gaza medical personnel and first responders assisting people injured during the border protests, from March 30 to June 2, had been wounded or killed by Israeli snipers. On May 14, 2018, Dr. Tarek Loubani, clearly identifiable as a doctor, was shot in the leg close to the separation fence, at a sight 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.[12] On the day of her death 100 demonstrating Palestinians were wounded, 40 shot by Israeli live fire.[13]

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.[9]

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[13] 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.[9] Other accounts state the distance as 100 metres from the border.[14][15] Three shots were heard.[9] A relative, Ibrahim al-Najjar, was one of those who carried her to a waiting ambulance.[13] Shortly afterwards, a Boston-born American woman serving in the IDF was falsely accused on social media of being the sniper in question.[16]

Al-Najjar's death came before she and her fiancé Izzat Shatat were to announce their engagement at the end of Ramadan.[3]

Thousands of Gazans attended her funeral along with hundreds of medical personnel, with her body being wrapped in a Palestinian flag. Her father carried her blood-stained medical jacket, while other mourners demanded revenge.[17][10][18]

Israeli response

An internal IDF review claimed that al-Najjar was not intentionally targeted.[19]

After initially reporting that an internal review showed that al-Najjar was not intentionally targeted, the IDF released video that purportedly showed al-Najjar admitting to being a human shield, with an IDF spokesman saying "Razan al-Najjar is not the angel of mercy Hamas propaganda is making her out to be."[19] The video that was released misleadingly took a prior interview that al-Najjar gave to a Lebanese television station out of context. She had said "I'm here on the line being a protective human shield saving the injured" and added she was at the protests to "save the wounded at the front lines", however the IDF released video cut out everything past "human shield".[7] The Israeli military was widely criticized for its efforts in manipulating the video, with commentators drawing parallels to past instances of the IDF manipulating or otherwise faking evidence in the past.[7][8] A spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister denied that editing the video was "political manipulation". The edited video was also shared by the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[8] The Israeli ambassador to London, Mark Regev, in a tweet placed the description of her as "medical personnel" in quotation marks and continued that her death was further proof of Hamas' brutality.[20]

Further footage showing an unidentified nurse, her face cannot be seen, was presented as evidence al-Najjar threw a tear-gas canister or smoking grenade,[21] at a distance of some 100 metres from the border was also released by the Israeli army.[19][21] Describing this video as having also been "tightly edited", The New York Times estimated that footage did not appear to have been taken on the day she was killed, stating also that "the canister does not appear to be aimed at anyone."[22] According to Gideon Levy, the video filmed the nurse, perhaps Najjar, from behind as she flings away a smoke grenade which Israeli soldiers had thrown in her direction.[20]

Media commentators described the IDF's release of selectively edited videos against Al-Najjar as "a coordinated smear campaign"[8] and part of a "narrative battle".[22]

B'Tselem's investigation

The investigation conducted by B'Tselem concluded that Israeli soldiers shot al-Najjar deliberately.[23] The group interviewed another paramedic called Rami Abu Jazar, who was at the same protest during which al-Najjar was killed.[5] Jazar told the group that he saw two Israeli soldiers aiming their guns at a group of paramedics, including himself and al-Najjar, "taking a sniper stance". Jazar himself was shot in the knee. No protesters were near the group during the attack, according to him.[5]

U.N. recognition

On June 2, 2018, a group of agencies at United Nations in New York City issued a press release expressing their anguish over her death, calling al-Najjar "a clearly identified medical staffer," and stating that the killing of the nurse was "particularly reprehensible".[24][10] The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process singled her case out for attention, tweeting "Medical workers are #NotATarget!".[25][6]

On June 1, a UN Security Council resolution proposed condemning the state of Israel for use of "excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force" against Palestinian protesters at the border fence. The resolution was vetoed by the United States.[10][26]

Military investigation

Israeli military spokespersons responded, but provided no official report on the shooting; they did say that the facts would be investigated.[27][28] Israel had repeatedly warned that anyone approaching the fence risked death.[10] The Gazans were calling this a peaceful protest while the Israelis referred to the protests as riots. The protests began March 30, 2018.[29]

On October 29 it was reported that the IDFs military advocate had rejected the findings of the preliminary probe earlier that year that found that she was not shot intentionally. Instead, a criminal investigation into the matter would be opened.[30]


In November on Interstate 93 near Boston, Massachusetts, the Palestine Advocacy Project sponsored a billboard to commemorate al-Najjar. The billboard had the text "Honoring the First Responders of Gaza. Saving Lives. Rescuing Hope" and featured a photograph of al-Najjar. Billboard owner Logan Communications took it down over complaints of terrorism and anti-semitism.[31][32]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Khoury, Jack; Kubovich, Yaniv (2 June 2018). 'Authorities in Gaza: Slain Medic's Teams' Hands Were Raised as They Approached Israeli Border,' Haaretz. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Protests resume after Palestinian paramedic's Gaza funeral". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  4. ^ Ahronheim, Anna (5 June 2018). "IDF says no direct fire was aimed at Gazan nurse killed Friday". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d "Israeli forces 'deliberately killed' Palestinian paramedic Razan". Al Jazeera English. 18 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b Abunimah, Ali (2018-06-02). "Gaza medic killed by Israel as she rescued injured". The Electronic Intifada. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  7. ^ a b c d e McKernan, Bethan (8 June 2018). "Israeli army edits video of Palestinian medic its troops shot dead to misleadingly show she was 'human shield for Hamas'". The Independent.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Mackey, Robert (8 June 2018). "Israel Attempts to Smear Razan al-Najjar, Palestinian Medic It Killed, Calling Her "No Angel"". The Intercept. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Holmes, Oliver; Balousha, Hazem (8 June 2018). Mother of shot Gaza medic: ‘She thought the white coat would protect her’ The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Abuheweila, Iyad; Kershner, Isabel (1 June 2018). "A Woman Dedicated to Saving Lives Loses Hers in Gaza Violence". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 June 2018 – via
  11. ^ "'Razan al-Najjar's mother joins medics attending to wounded in Gaza,'", Middle East Eye 8 June 2018. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  12. ^ Lonnquist, Michelle (2018-06-11). "Medical Workers Shot in Gaza Demonstrations". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  13. ^ a b c 'Palestinians say female medic killed, 100 injured in Gaza fence clashes,' The Times of Israel 1 June 2018
  14. ^ Akram, Fares (2 June 2018). "Protests resume after funeral for Palestinian paramedic killed by Israeli troops", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  15. ^ Lee, Ian; van Heerden, Dominique (3 June 2018). "'Her only weapon was her medical vest': Palestinians mourn death of nurse killed by Israeli forces", CNN. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  16. ^ Ahrenheim, Anna (4 June 2018). 'American-born IDF Vet stands ground on False Gazan Nurse Death Accusations,' Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Gaza violence: Thousands attend funeral for Palestinian medic". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  18. ^ "UN official condemns 'reprehensible' killing of Gaza medic". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Pileggi, Tamar. "After saying it shot medic by accident, IDF claims she was 'no angel'". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  20. ^ a b Levy, Gideon (10 June 2018). 'After Killing Razan al-Najjar, Israel Assassinates Her Character,' Haaretz. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  21. ^ a b Hass, Amira (10 June 2018). 'Why Not Posthumously Declare a Medic a Terrorist? It's the Easiest Solution Of lies and soldiers,' Haaretz. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  22. ^ a b Buchsbaum, Herbet (7 June 2018). "Israeli Video Portrays Medic Killed in Gaza as Tool of Hamas". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  23. ^ "B'Tselem investigation shows Paramedic Rozan a-Najar was killed by deliberate fire in #Gaza". Twitter. B'Tselem's official Twitter account. 18 July 2018.
  24. ^ "WHO EMRO - UN agencies deeply concerned over killing of health volunteer in Gaza - Palestine-news - Palestine". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  25. ^ O'Grady, Siobhán (2 June 2018). "A Palestinian medic was shot dead in Gaza. Now Israel says it will investigate". Retrieved 4 June 2018 – via
  26. ^ Gladstone, Rick (1 June 2018). "U.S. Vetoes U.N. Resolution on Gaza, Fails to Win Second Vote on its Own Measure". Retrieved 4 June 2018 – via
  27. ^ Ahronheim, Anna (2 June 2018). "IDF investigating shooting death of Palestinian nurse in Gaza protests". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  28. ^ Lubell, Maayan. "Israeli military says to probe killing of Gaza nurse". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  29. ^ "Palestinian female paramedic killed in anti-Israel rally in eastern Gaza - Xinhua -". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  30. ^ Kubovich, Yaniv (29 October 2018). "Israeli Army Opens Criminal Investigation Into Killing of Gaza Medic". Haaretz.
  31. ^ "Billboard celebrating Gaza's heroic first responders outside Boston is taken down under pressure — updated". Mondoweiss. 14 November 2018.
  32. ^ "Billboard Honoring First Responders of Gaza Removed". IMEMC. 15 November 2018.