Palestinian medic Razan Al-Najar works at the scene of clashes at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip. Al-Najar died after she was shot in the chest by Israeli snipers. Picture: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
‘We have one goal - to save lives and evacuate wounded people” - these were the words of 21-year-old volunteer paramedic Razan Al-Najjar in an interview with the New York Times last month. Today, she lies buried after being shot in the chest by Israeli snipers. Last weekend, Razan’s hands were in the air as she moved towards an injured protester, wearing her white medical coat and clear identification. This was obviously no deterrent to the Israeli sniper who murdered her, and is indicative of the culture of plain disregard of basic human rights, wanton intention to harm and kill and a flagrant abuse of power and destruction that the Israeli Defence Force has adopted.

The (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention (to which Israel was a signatory a year after its formulation in 1950) has two protocols that afford special protection to medical personnel and humanitarian staff; these are enshrined in articles 14-24. The convention also guarantees respect for the freedom of movement of medical personnel, and ensures that they are granted all necessary material facilities for them to perform their duties, including removal of victims and attending to and transferring injured and sick civilians. One can argue that besides breaking international law, the murder devastates all human instincts of decency. The Israeli military said on Saturday it would investigate Razan’s death but that its troops worked “in accordance with standard operating procedures”.

To actively target and kill; as surely we cannot excuse shooting a medic through her chest as collateral damage; a healthcare worker truly transgresses all bounds of barbarity. As a doctor and human I can say with confidence that indeed, Israel has crossed all limits with its latest actions and this is a dangerous slippery slope of amorality and brazen disregard for consequences that it is embarking on.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been protesting in the Gaza strip since March 30, to shed light on the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, and also call for the “right of return” for the 750000 Palestinian refugees displaced during 1948.

I had the privilege of visiting Gaza as a medical student in 2013. The devastation of Israel’s blockade on all supplies (especially medical), its routine massacres and bombardment of the civilian population and the evidence everywhere of what is obviously a debilitating system of oppression was evident in every daily living activity.

My experience in the Al-shifa hospital was that it was just as short supplied and struggling as all of the public hospitals I work in in South Africa. How Al-shifa is managing with the casualties in Gaza since March 30 is baffling. Any healthcare system in a First World country would collapse if it had to treat as many gunshot wounds in a single day as there are in the Gaza Strip, yet Gaza’s medical system, which for years has been on the brink of collapse as a result of the Israeli blockade, copes amazingly well with the challenge.

From March 30 to May 22, 13190 people, including 1136 children, were injured in the demonstrations along the border with Israel, according to a World Health Organisation report.

Of these, 3360 were injured by live ammunition. On May 14, a paramedic from the Palestinian Civil Defence was killed, shot on the way to rescuing an injured protester. For about 20 minutes, his colleagues tried to reach him but failed, deterred by the heavy gunfire. The paramedic died. In the week of May 13-20, an additional 24 medical personnel were injured - eight by live ammunition, six by bullet shrapnel, one by a tear gas grenade and nine by exposure to tear gas. Twelve ambulances were damaged. Since the peaceful protests began, 238 medical personnel have been injured and 38 ambulances damaged.

While these may simply read as statistics to most, I am flabbergasted by the abolishment of the sanctity that usually accompanies being a healthcare worker.

Razan was dedicated to this cause, and for that not to be respected is an unethical line of no return that Israel is toeing. Why Israel is no longer held to the same standards of morality as the rest of the world is a question that has long been left unanswered.

On Friday, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel’s “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians. As long as these two countries continue to disregard all basic human rights, there is little hope for peace in the region.

Razan will be immortalised as a hero. However, how many more young people must lose their lives in the line of duty as healthcare workers before Israeli occupation will be recognised for the monster that it is?

* Dr Aayesha J Soni is a medical doctor and member of the Media Review Network.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.