PHOTO SOURCE: ULTRA PALESTINE
Rouzan al-Najjar 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 shot 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, but Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that al-Najjar was shot intentionally. She was only 20 years old at that time.
2018 Gaza border protests was a series of demonstrations held each Friday in the Gaza Strip near the Gaza-Israel border from 30 March 2018 and onwards. The demonstrators demanded that the Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to lands they were displaced from in what is now Israel. They also protested against Israel’s Gaza blockade and United States recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.
Too poor to afford a university education, Rouzan al-Najjar studied calligraphy and took on coursework in nursing. Her formal training after volunteering was as a paramedic in Khan Younis at Nasser Hospital. She attended every Friday protests 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.
PHOTO SOURCE: THE INDEPENDENT
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.
Al-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.”
On 1 June 2018, the third Friday of Ramadan, 3,000 protestors demonstrated near the fence and Najjar was one of five paramedics on a shift. They walked with their hands up and wearing white vests, approached the border fence to treat a wounded protester. It was a clear sign that they came in peace and were there to help those wounded and will not be able to cause any harm to the Israelis. However, on that very day, a blessed Friday in the blessed month of Ramadan, Rouzan al-Najjar was shot, and she died as a syahid. 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.
A United Nations investigation, the results of which were published late February 2019, concluded that Israel may have committed war crimes in its response to the Gaza protests, saying that dozens of children, two journalists and three paramedics, including al-Najjar, were killed by Israeli soldiers even though they were easily identifiable as such and did not pose any threat to the Israelis. It was reported that some 25 Gaza medical personnel and first responders assisting people injured during the border protests had been wounded or killed by Israeli snipers. They were clearly targeted and not a result of indirect fire.