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Israeli forces ‘wreak havoc’ in Birzeit University raid

Dec. 14, 2016 10:41 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2016 8:42 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- More than 20 Israeli military vehicles raided the campus of Birzeit University in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah before dawn on Wednesday, with Israeli forces ”leaving a great deal of havoc" in their wake, an official university statement said.

After storming the campus through its western gate, Israeli soldiers forced campus security guards to stand against the walls, and proceeded to raid several buildings, including the university's administration building, the student council’s headquarters, Kamal Nasir Hall, and the Faculty of Science.

Sources said soldiers smashed the main door of the student council building before searching the area and seizing several objects that were inside storage units belonging to student blocs.

Students' flags and banners were also confiscated, while property in the administrative building and around campus were “sabotaged,” according to the university.

Birzeit University harshly condemned Israeli forces for the “continuation of their barbaric aggression on our people and national institutions,” adding that “These blatant attacks and subsequent measures of harassment constitute outrageous interferences to our right to education.”

However, the statement vowed that the “attacks” would “not deter its commitment to higher education, and the pivotal role it has played since its establishment.”

“The academic freedom of Palestinian academics and students is severely hindered, due to the (Israeli) occupation, its policies, and continuous defiance of the fundamental rights of our people and the sanctity of our universities, and that must be defended,” the statement said.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they would look into reports of the raid.

Story continues below.

Birzeit University, which has been ranked the top university in Palestine and among the highest ranking universities in the Arab world, has been the focus of an Israeli military crackdown a number of times in recent months, which increased after the Hamas-affiliated Islamic bloc won student elections at Birzeit for the past two consecutive years.

In July, at least 11 Palestinian youths were injured after Israeli undercover forces and soldiers opened live fire in the campus amid clashes sparked by an Israeli raid to detain a former member of the Islamic bloc.

At the start of 2016, Israeli military forces raided Birzeit, destroying and confiscating university equipment, having detained more than 80 students since Oct. 2015 up until that point.

Rights groups have widely condemned the concerted detention of Islamic bloc members at the university since their initial victory in 2015, who have also been targeted by Palestinian security forces. The Hamas movement is deemed illegal by the Israeli government -- along with the majority of Palestinian political factions and movements -- making students involved with the Islamic bloc highly vulnerable to raids and arbitrary detentions.

Birzeit University noted in their statement Wednesday that Israeli forces have also violently raided other Palestinian universities, including Palestine Technical University - Kadoori, the Arab American University of Jenin, as well as Al-Quds University in Abu Dis.

"The university calls on the international community and human rights organizations to immediately put a stop to these raids and violations, and actively engage in supporting our struggle for liberation," Birzeit stated.
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