Palestine’s educational institutions, from schools to universities, are being targeted by Israeli airstrikes again, along with the killing and arresting many teachers and students, the destruction of educational facilities and the suspension of teaching in most of the Palestinian territories.
In East Jerusalem, a large building affiliated with Al-Quds University was severely damaged as a result of many tear gas canisters and sound bombs fired by the Israeli forces on the campus, causing a fire that left the building completely burnt and collapsed.
“What happened is not new,” said Abdullah Najajreh, a professor of public law at Al-Quds University’s Faculty of Law, in a phone call. “It has happened frequently not only to Al-Quds University, which has been besieged for more than 17 years by the apartheid wall, but to all of the Palestinian educational institutions.” (See two related articles, “Al-Quds University Under Fire” and “Educational Toll of Gaza War: At least 3 Universities, 148 Schools.”)
Over the past few days, many students and professors have also been arrested, according to Najajreh, who is secretary-general of the Federation of Unions of Palestinian University Professors and Employees.
“This will affect the opportunity to resume studies and take exams for students in practical colleges after the Muslim holiday vacation,” he said.
Closed Universities in Gaza
Under fierce military attacks, all of Gaza’s seven universities have been closed. These include the Islamic University of Gaza, the Gaza Strip’s largest university, after a number of its buildings were bombed and Jamal Al-Zibdeh, a professor of mechanical engineering at the university, was assassinated. Moreover, work was suspended in 22 intermediate institutes, and about 31 schools with more than 24,000 students were bombed and destroyed as a result of the Israeli strikes.
“Educational buildings have always been primary targets for the Israeli forces in any attack on the Gaza Strip,” Adnan Abu Amer, head of the department of political science and media at Ummah Open University, in Gaza , said in a phone call. He added that major buildings at Al-Aqsa University and the Islamic University were damaged due to the bombing of nearby sites.
“Educational buildings have always been primary targets for the Israeli forces in any attack on the Gaza Strip.”Adnan Abu Amer
Head of the department of political science and media at Ummah Open University in Gaza
The Israeli bombardments come against the background of escalating violence taking place in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the Israeli forces storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Palestinian factions in Gaza firing rockets into Israeli towns, and Israel airstrikes against targets in Gaza. (See a related article, “Gaza Conflict Drives Support to Academic Boycott of Israel.”)
Security Arrests and Harassment
Students at universities in the West Bank complain that the Israeli forces’ undercover units stormed academic institutions and arrested dozens of students over the past few days, and cut the main roads leading to the universities.
In a phone call, Q.S., a third-year engineering student at Palestine Polytechnic University, in Hebron, said that dozens of students were arrested from Palestinian universities during the past weeks before the Eid holiday. He said the Israeli forces closed most of the roads connecting Palestinian cities as a collective punishment, and most of the universities closed out of fears for the safety of students traveling to campus. (See a related article, “Academics Condemn Israeli Arrests of Palestinian Students.”)
The student, who asked to remain anonymous in anticipation of being harassed by the Israeli forces, is afraid the repercussions of these confrontations will increase the exposure to harm and armed violence that Palestinian students face from settlers while walking down the streets they live on.
“Most of the universities that teach important majors such as engineering and medicine are located in the main cities only, such as Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron,” he said. “This necessitates the passage of students from bypass streets controlled by the Israeli forces and exposes them to the risk of arrest and assault by angry settlers.” (See a related article, “Arab Students in Israel Say Their Voices are Muffled.”)
E-Learning Is Not Available to All
In a statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education condemned the continuing attacks on Palestinian educational institutions. However, it said that the educational process on Sunday and Monday will continue online in view of the current situations, and in the interest of verifying the availability of safety requirements for students and professors due to the continuous attacks.
Ishaq Sidr, Palestine’s minister of communications, confirmed in a phone call that the West Bank’s universities can currently offer online education. However, this is not possible at universities in the Gaza Strip, due to the bombing of the data center of the communications network and Internet services since the first day of the Israeli airstrikes, and the disruption of service to 50,000 subscribers.
In turn, Gaza’s universities announced the suspension of all online education activities, including lectures, assignments and exams, until further notice.
Sidr, who previously worked as a university professor at Palestine Polytechnic University, said that bringing the equipment into Gaza to restore Internet service in the coming days is a “very difficult process,” which will be controlled by the Israeli side in an “unprofessional and inhumane” way. It will negatively affect the course of education, even if the bombing stops, he said.
‘A Complete Paralysis of Life’
“The bombing is causing a complete paralysis of life, especially with the complete damage of the Internet and electricity sectors,” Iman Safi, a Palestinian student at the Faculty of Information at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, said in a phone call. She added that electricity is barely available for three hours a day.
“The bombing is causing a complete paralysis of life, especially with the complete damage of the Internet and electricity sectors.”Iman Safi
A student at the Faculty of Information at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza
The student, who lives in Khan Yunis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, lost her colleague, a first-year nursing student who was killed along with her entire family. Other classmates’ homes were bombed, and they are now forced to sleep in schools.
Safi explained that Gaza’s students whose homes were destroyed, and who may have lost family members, will not be able to complete their educational journey, nor follow up on activities and tests at present, because they are “in a state of dispersion, instability and homelessness.”
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“Even when the aggression stops, it will not be possible to return to studies quickly,” she said. “Lifting the rubble and restoring buildings and infrastructure will take time. We will also need a lot of support to overcome what is happening.”