Gaza universities close doors amid deadly Israeli strikes

Eight universities have announced their temporary closure in response to Israeli forces' air strikes in the Gaza Strip, which have killed over 40 people, including several students, injured hundreds of people and left a branch of Al-Quds Open University damaged.

On 5 August Israel bombed the Gaza Strip in what it described as a “pre-emptive operation” against Palestinian militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The attack represented the worst escalation in violence between Israel and Palestine since last year’s 11-day war. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire took effect on 7 August.

During the attack, Israeli warplanes hit several sites in the blockaded territory as part of a surprise operation named ‘Breaking Dawn’ which the Israel Defense Forces said thwarted planned rocket attacks by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Health authorities in the Palestinian coastal enclave said 44 people had been killed by Israeli airstrikes and approximately 360 people injured.

Global silence

In a 5 August statement, Al-Azhar University condemned what it called “the unreasonable and unacceptable global silence, which gives the Zionist entity immoral and non-civilised encouragement to continue its violations of human rights and humanity, and its repeated attacks against our innocent Palestinian brothers”.

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, is the ultimate authority of the university considered to be the ‘Oxford’ of the Islamic world. The university is the world’s leading centre for Arabic literature and Sunni Islamic learning and one of the oldest higher education institutions in the world.

A total of eight universities located in the Gaza Strip have issued statements announcing their closure and the suspension of studies and exams.

These universities include the University College of Applied Sciences – Gaza, the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, Al-Azhar University – Gaza, the University of Palestine, Gaza University, Al-Quds Open University and Israa University Gaza.

“Due to the current circumstances, the university announces the suspension of administrative and academic work until the situation returns to normal for the safety of staff and students,” the universities said on their official Facebook pages.

Student deaths

The University of Palestine has also announced the death of male students Osama Abdul Rahman Al Suri and Tamim Ghassan Hegazy from the faculty of information technology.

Al-Aqsa University announced the death of female student Doniana Adnan Al-Amour from the faculty of arts.

Al-Quds Open University announced the death of student Ahmed Adeeb Afana and the arrest by Israeli forces of a 22-year-old female,
Dina Nayef Jaradat, a student in the faculty of mass communication at the university’s Nablus branch.

Israa University announced the death of postgraduate student Ziyad Ahmed Al-Mudallal from the college of graduate studies, while
Gaza University said one of its students, Abdel Aziz Rami Shakya, had been injured.

Damage to university campus

In a 6 August statement issued by Al-Quds Open University, the institution said it “condemns the brutal Israeli aggression, which targeted our people in the Gaza Strip, and caused the death of a number of martyrs and dozens of wounded, and also caused damage to the university’s branch in the northern Gaza Strip, as the occupation shells targeted it directly.

“The administration of Al-Quds Open University considers that targeting its campus in the northern Gaza Strip is a clear violation of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, including the Fourth Convention, which included the prohibition of targeting civilians and the need to protect education from attack in time of war.

“The university calls on the international community to stop the Israeli arrogance and to hold the occupation legally responsible for its aggression on educational and public facilities, and the need to exert pressure for an immediate end to this aggression.”

In its own statement, Birzeit University said it “strongly protests Israel’s ruthless assault on the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing over 14 women, men and children in the past two days. These attacks are part and parcel of Israel’s colonial control and oppression of the Palestinian people, and the systematic denial of their inalienable rights under international law”.

“We call upon all supporters of justice and freedom to protest Israeli violations of Palestinian rights and to hold Israel accountable to comply with its obligations under international law by ending its regime of settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid,” the statement said.

Student associations at Birzeit University organised an event on 6 August to show solidarity with Gaza and to denounce Israeli aggression.