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Israel detains 3 Birzeit University students on eve of student council elections

May 10, 2017 10:36 A.M. (Updated: May 10, 2017 6:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained at least 12 Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank during predawn raids, including three Hamas-affiliated students of Birzeit University in the Ramallah district, who were were detained from their dormitories hours before student council elections took place at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Palestinian security sources identified the three students as Ahmad al-Ayish, Amr al-Rimawi, and Ahmad Faraj. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the three detentions.

All three were members of the Hamas-affiliated Islamic bloc at the school. According to a statement released by Hamas, al-Ayish is the head of the student council and al-Rimawi is secretary of the public relations committee. Palestinian security forces had also identified al-Rimawi as a former head of student council.

On Tuesday night, al-Ayish gave a speech calling upon all students to vote in the elections. In the absence of national Palestinian elections for more than a decade, university elections are seen as an important indicator of public opinion.

Birzeit University, 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, particularly after the Islamic bloc won student elections at Birzeit last year for the second consecutive year. The Islamic bloc victories -- its first since 2007, took observers by surprise at the historically staunchly pro-Fatah campus.

Last month, three other Birzeit University students were detained by Palestinian security forces -- each of them members of the Islamic bloc, amid what the Islamic bloc described as an “escalation of political arrests by security forces against students and activists.”

Palestinian prisoners' solidarity network Samidoun said in March that some 60 Birzeit University students and hundreds of other Palestinian students from other universities were being held as political prisoners by Israel. “Indeed, students are specifically targeted for arrests, especially as annual Palestinian student elections approach,” the group warned at the time.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces carried out overnight detention raids in a number of other areas of the West Bank.

Elsewhere in the Ramallah district, an unidentified Palestinian was detained in the village of Kafr Nima, according to an Israeli army spokesperson. She said two Palestinians were also detained in the town of Abu Dis in the central Jerusalem district.

Palestinian security sources said that Israeli forces raided the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem and detained Moussa Muhammad al-Umour and Hassan Khalid al-Badan from the village of Tuqu, as well as Mahmoud Ahmad Abu Sway from al-Khader.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed that three detentions were carried out in the Bethlehem area, and said that one Palestinian was also detained in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, and another in the Jenin district of the northern West Bank.

Israeli forces also held and briefly interrogated 15 Palestinian youths from the town of Asira al-Shamaliya in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus -- the majority of them former prisoners, including Bilal Kayid, who was released from Israeli prison after undertaking a 71-day hunger strike last year in protest of his administration detention without charge or trial.

Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The United Nations recorded an average of 95 weekly raids in the occupied West Bank in 2016, and 70 weekly raids on average thus far in 2017.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of March, including 300 minors and 61 women.

Palestinian political factions have meanwhile repeatedly accused the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority of “escalating security collaboration” with Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy" funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
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