Israeli sniper deliberately killed medic Razan al-Najjar, investigation finds

In a photo taken on 1 April, Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar helps an injured man at an emergency medical tent near Khan Younis, during protests in Gaza near the boundary with Israel. Al-Najjar was fatally shot by an Israeli sniper as she performed her duties on on 1 June.

 

Ashraf Amra APA images

An Israeli sniper deliberately targeted Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar, an investigation by the human rights group B’Tselem has found.

Al-Najjar, 21, was killed on 1 June, as she and her colleagues treated Palestinians taking part in Great March of Return protests in Gaza, near the boundary fence with Israel, east of Khan Younis.

According to B’Tselem, al-Najjar “was fatally shot by a member of the security forces who was aiming directly at her as she was standing about 25 meters away from the fence, despite the fact that she posed no danger to him or anyone else and was wearing a medical uniform.”

Shortly before she was killed, al-Najjar was with several other paramedics, including Rami Abu Jazar, Rasha Qudaih, Rida al-Najjar and Mahmoud Abd al-Ati.

All were wearing clearly marked medical vests.

They were approaching the area of the fence with their hands in the air in order to rescue two young men who had passed out due to the heavy amounts of teargas the Israelis were firing.

“We got to the two young men, and when we started evacuating them, the soldiers started firing a heavy barrage of teargas canisters at us,” Abu Jazar told B’Tselem.

Razan al-Najjar and Qudaih began choking, and they withdrew from the area in order to receive treatment from their colleagues Abu Jazar and Abd al-Ati.

Abd al-Ati told B’Tselem how he had given Razan al-Najjar first aid to treat the tear gas inhalation and that shortly after, “We went back and stood northwest of the protesters, about 10 to 20 meters away from the concertina fence.”

Other colleagues managed to bring the two young men to safety.

“After we had moved away, we started feeling better and decided to go closer to the protesters,” Abu Jazar stated. “We stood about 10 meters away from them, which was about 25 meters away from the fence. There were no protesters near us.”

That is when an Israeli sniper deliberately targeted Razan al-Najjar.

“Sniper stance”

“At around a quarter to six, we saw two soldiers get out of a military jeep, kneel and aim their guns at us, taking up a sniper stance,” Abu Jazar said. “Razan was standing to my right and Rasha was behind me. We were talking. Suddenly, they fired two live bullets at us. I looked at Razan and saw her point to her back and then fall down.”

Abu Jazar was also shot in the leg and Abd al-Ati was hit by shrapnel in the right hand and pelvis.

Then, according to Abd al-Ati, “two soldiers got out of a military jeep and pointed their guns at us. They fired two bullets at us.”

One hit Razan al-Najjar in the left side of the chest and exited from her back, while Abd al-Ati was hit by fragments from a live round.

Razan al-Najjar was taken to the European Hospital near Khan Younis and after 30 minutes of resuscitation efforts was pronounced dead.

“Sham” investigation

B’Tselem notes how the Israeli military tried to clear itself of responsibility for al-Najjar’s death by offering varying accounts.

At first, the army claimed that soldiers did not fire directly at al-Najjar.

Then the army claimed the medic might have been killed by a ricocheting bullet, and finally it resorted to a smear campaign, accusing al-Najjar of offering herself up as a “human shield” for Hamas.

Al-Najjar’s killing, the human rights group states, “is a direct result of the open-fire policy Israel has been implementing since the protests began.”

Since the Great March of Return was launched on 30 March, Israeli forces have killed some 150 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority unarmed civilians killed during protests.

More than 4,000 others have been injured by live fire.

Al-Najjar was the second paramedic to be killed, two weeks after Mousa Jaber Abu Hassanein was fatally shot in another incident of Israeli soldiers opening fire on clearly marked rescue personnel.

In total, more than 350 medical staff have been injured since the protests began, including 26 hit with live fire, 12 hurt by shrapnel and nearly 40 directly hit by tear gas canisters, according to World Health Organization figures cited by B’Tselem.

Dozens of ambulances have been damaged.

Israelis snipers are under orders to shoot directly at unarmed protesters, including children, a policy that the International Criminal Court prosecutor has warned could land Israeli leaders and commanders on trial.

The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq had already dismissed the Israeli army’s self-investigation into al-Najjar’s killing as a “sham” that is “neither transparent or credible.”

Dreamed of being a nurse

On the day she was killed, Razan al-Najjar was doing what she had always wanted to do – give medical care to people in need.

“She loved life and was always smiling. She dreamed of studying nursing at the university, but our finances wouldn’t allow it so she made do with first aid courses,” Razan’s mother Sabrin al-Najjar told B’Tselem.

But the courses at a local hospital were rigorous and al-Najjar worked hard, earning the respect of doctors and other colleagues.

“Razan was driven to prove herself in the nursing field and make up for not being able to go to university,” her mother added.

Her killing has left behind a devastated family unable to come to terms with losing her.

“Sometimes I call her when it’s time to eat, because I feel that she’s with us and she hasn’t died. The whole family is having a really hard time,” Sabrin said.

Razan’s younger siblings are struggling and can’t understand why she’s never coming home.

“My husband is broken,” Sabrin said. “He cries all the time and misses her badly.”

“I keep praying for her to receive the grace of God and go to heaven. Losing her is terrible,” Sabrin said. “What wrong did Razan commit that she had to be killed?”

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Razan is the bravest person i know about. But she is more than that. During her heroic action as a medic she was an inspiration to everyone who knew her, and now, to the whole world. I wish there were words to express my feeling about her but here are none, because there has never been anyone like her before. There is no one I admire more than Razan al- Najjar.

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Thanks are due to the volunteers of B'Tselem for publishing their findings. This crime must be taken up by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It's been reported here at the Electronic Intifada that the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC has ordered steps be taken to facilitate the gathering of testimony on Israeli war crimes, and there is some reason to hope that the dilatory tactics of prosecutor Fatou Bensouda are no longer viewed with equanimity by her supervisors. Razan al-Najjar was murdered in cold blood by an Israeli military sniper under orders and as an act of policy. So was every other protester killed during the Great March of Return. Razan's courage and her compassion must be honoured. One way to do so is to continue to press for her assassins' prosecution before an international court.

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