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Oliver Holmes, Hazem Balousha — The Guardian June 8, 2018

A photo taken on 1 April shows Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar treating injured persons at an emergency medical tent during protests in Gaza near the boundary with Israel. Al-Najjar was fatally shot by an Israeli sniper as she was helping injured protesters near Khan Younis on 1 June. Ashraf Amra APA images. Click to enlarge

Gaza’s medics have fine-tuned tactics on how to work in the line of fire without being shot by Israeli snipers.

They wear white jackets with reflective, high-visibility stripes. Teams move slowly and deliberately towards casualties with their hands raised above their heads, past piles of burning tyres and plumes of white tear gas smoke.

As they approach the metal fence, they come within speaking distance of troops on the other side. They shout out in unison: “Don’t shoot. There are wounded.”

They believe there is no way that anyone might misidentify them in Gaza’s open fields, but medical workers across the coastal strip – which Israel occupied for 38 years until 2005 and over which it enforces a strict land and naval blockade – are coming to the same terrifying conclusion. The strategy is not working.

Razan al-Najjar, a volunteer health worker, took all the precautions, her colleagues say, but she was still killed when she was struck in the chest by a bullet last Friday.

The 21-year-old was the second medic to be killed in a 10-week Palestinian demonstration movement, and Gaza’s ministry of health says 25 others have been hit with live fire.

Faris al-Qidra, who was on shift with Najjar when she died, said she and four others had gone to rescue a man hit in the face with a teargas canister 20 metres from the perimeter.

“He was crying out ‘help me,’” the 31-year-old paramedic said, adding that Najjar was always ready to go forward, even when soldiers fired warning shots. “The soldiers usually scream for us to go back,” he said.

That day, he heard three shots. A photograph taken shortly afterwards shows men carrying Najjar’s body, her lifeless hands in surgical gloves.

Najjar had become an icon in Gaza before her death, with dozens of images published online of the woman who wore colourful headscarves and a resolute expression on her face.

She was often photographed with her white coat spattered with the blood of her patients, and one image shows her anxiously kneeling over a young man, feverishly bandaging his bleeding head.

“I’m here at the frontline as a human shield and rescuer for the injured,” she told one reporter in an interview. She complained to another that her society often judged women. “But society has to accept us. If they don’t want to accept us by choice, they will be forced to. Because we have more strength than any man.”

Her teenage years were scarred by conflict. She was still a child when the 2008 war broke out, 16 during the next round of hostilities and 17 in the seven-week 2014 conflict when her neighbourhood of Khuza’a suffered some of the worst devastation in Gaza.

“Razan did not like to see suffering,” said her mother, Sabrine, sitting among grieving relatives in her living room, where solar-powered lights hung from wires on the ceiling. “We have experienced too many wars. She wanted to be able to help.”

Continues …

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