‘Her only weapon was her medical vest,’ Palestinians mourn death of nurse killed by Israeli forces

Razan al-Najjar is known to the world as the 21-year-old Palestinian medical nurse shot dead by an Israeli sniper during protests on Friday.

To her parents, she was a beloved daughter who died just a few hundred meters from her home in Khan Younis, close to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel.

On Saturday, thousands took to the streets of the Gazan city for the young medic’s funeral.

The streets and lampposts surrounding Razan’s home are now adorned with her smiling image.

Her father, Ashraf al-Najjar, took CNN up three flights of stairs and into their apartment. The rest of the family, their small home now filled with mourners, sat in disbelief.

Razan’s mother, Sabreen, dressed entirely in black, clutched her daughter’s blood-soaked medical vest.

She said Razan had been volunteering since the beginning of the protests, working without pay.

“I was afraid for her, but Razan told us she wasn’t afraid, she felt obliged to help and was clearly wearing a medical vest,” she said.

Sabreen said her daughter “may have been small, but she was strong and her only weapon was her medical vest.”

Ashraf sat alongside his wife in a quiet state of denial, every so often nodding in agreement.

It’s a vest Razan thought would protect her.

“‘I’m protected by my vest,'” she would tell her mother and father before heading out to help. “‘God is with me. I am not afraid.'”

Razan’s death comes after weeks of Palestinian protests, known as the Great March of Return, during which more than 100 Palestinian protesters have been killed by Israeli fire.

She is the second medical worker to die. More than 200 others have been injured, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The Israeli military said it is investigating her death, adding “the IDF constantly works to draw operational lessons and reduce the number of casualties in the area of the Gaza Strip security fence.”

“I want justice for Razan,” Sabreen said as she pulled a wad of medical gauze from the pocket of her daughter’s vest.

“Here is her weapon! I want the world to know this is the weapon of Razan al-Najjar – and is this the ID of a terrorist?” she asked rhetorically, holding up her daughter’s medical ID she was wearing at the time of her death.

In Gaza City’s blazing midday sun, a group of medical volunteers gathered Sunday outside a United Nations office in protest of what they said is the targeting of medics by the Israeli military. The IDF denies it targets medical workers.

At the gathering, CNN spoke to Rami Abu Jazzar, who was volunteering alongside Razan on Friday. He said he too was shot that day, in the left knee, and was there on crutches. He said it’s important the world knows what happened.

Jazzar said Friday was like any other day as he, Razan and the group of medical volunteers from the Palestinian Medical Relief Society gathered to tend to wounded protesters.

He said Razan arrived early that day: “When she arrived on Friday, she told her friends ‘I love working here with everyone.’ She smiled all day. It was a beautiful day working with her.”

Cellphone video filmed by the volunteers and shared with CNN shows the medics, including Razan, slowly moving forward, their medical ID badges displayed and their hands in the air. They said the video was filmed 10 minutes before Razan was shot.

“People were suffering from the [tear] gas,” Jazzar said. “A man was right near the fence and was calling out ‘Come help me. Help me’. He was close to the fence. Razan went to help him.”

That’s when she was shot, he said.

Another volunteer working that day said she saw the sniper and warned the others to be careful.

“Some people on social media say Razan was shot by a woman sniper,” Rasha Qudeih said. “She was not. I saw the sniper – it was a man.”

Razan’s friends and fellow medical volunteers said they’ll remember her for her bravery and will more than ever continue their work.