Israeli raid of Birzeit University met with sharp condemnation

Israeli forces did not specify the reason for storming the university campus apart from saying that its forces shot a “wanted Palestinian”. Three out of five students abducted by the Israeli security forces from the university were later released.

January 11, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
A rally was held on Tuesday January 10 at the entrance of Birzeit University following the violent incursion by Israeli forces and arrest of five student leaders. Photo: Ihab Al-Arouri / Quds

Palestinian organizations and international groups have deplored the attack carried out by the Israeli occupation forces on Birzeit University on Monday, January 10. During the attack, occupation forces arrested five students, one who was wounded and hospitalized. Students and civil society groups in Palestine protested outside of Birzeit University on Tuesday January 11 against the attack.

According to a statement issued by the university, a group of Israeli agents stormed the university’s north gate and opened fire on students without warning. Student leader Ismail Barghouti was hospitalized from his injuries and placed under arrest while the four others were abducted by Israeli forces. According to Palestinian Wafa News Agency the five students, Barghouti, Qassam Nakhleh, Abdel Hafez Sharbeti, Walid Haranzeh and Muhammad al-Khatib, are members of university’s student union and represent different political formations.

Following the news of the attack several Palestinian groups issued statements condemning the unprovoked attack. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called it a “barbaric Israeli incursion” and demanded the immediate release of all those abducted.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network called “student organizations and supporters of Palestine everywhere to organize, take action and campaign to free” the abducted students and hundreds other students jailed by Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian Authority criticized the attack in a statement saying that it “is an integral part of the occupation’s aggression and its continuous war against the Palestinian people, their rights, lands, holy sites, properties and institutions and a flagrant violations of international norms and laws which criminalize such incursions.”

In a statement, Hamas also condemned the attack on students calling it yet another crime committed by the occupation forces on Palestinians.

Hanan Ashrawi, former member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee and a former faculty in the university informed in a tweet later on Monday that except Ismail Barghouti and Qassem Nakhleh three other abducted students have been released.

Israeli authorities did not elaborate on the justification for the attack, nor the charges against the students apart from saying that its forces had to open fire on “wanted Palestinians” after they tried to evade arrest.

A site of struggle

Apart from being the main center of higher education in the occupied territories, Birzeit University has also been a center of resistance against the Israeli occupation. Located just outside Ramallah, Birzeit University has grown from its foundation as a elementary school for girls in 1924 to become a university in 1975.

Read more: The right to education under occupation

Students at Birzeit have historically been active not only in opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine but also the regime’s policies across the region. During the Israeli attacks on Lebanon in the 1980s, students at Birzeit organized mass protests and campaigns.

This determined resistance has made the university a target of Israel’s security forces and it has been shut at least 15 times by military order. The longest period of closure was during the First Intifada when the university was forced to remain shut for four-and-a-half years (1988-1992).

According to Samidoun, the attack by the Israeli security forces was carried out due to ongoing protests against the university administration’s “policies of subservience to the demands of the Israeli occupation”. The students are opposing the university’s move, allegedly under Israeli pressure, to investigate and and sanction some of the student leaders who participated in an event on campus in December last year in support of Palestinian resistance.

In 2021, at least 55 students from Birzeit University were arrested by the Israeli forces. A total of 66 Palestinian students are in Israeli prison now, according to Samidoun.

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