Israel Deliberately Kills Academics, Intellectuals in Gaza – Euro-Med Rights Group

A graduation ceremony at the Islamic University of Gaza. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Destroying universities and killing academics and students “will make it more difficult to resume university and academic life when the genocide ends.”

The Israeli army has killed 94 university professors, along with hundreds of teachers and thousands of students, as part of its ongoing assault on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. 

The Geneva-based human rights organization said in a statement on Saturday that Israel “has targeted academic, scientific, and intellectual figures in the Strip in deliberate and specific air raids on their homes without prior notice.” 

“Those targeted include 17 individuals who held professor degrees, 59 who held doctoral degrees, and 18 who held master’s degrees,” the organization said. 

Due to challenges with documentation brought on by movement difficulties, the disruption of communications and the internet, as well as the existence of thousands of unaccounted-for or missing individuals, Euro-Med Monitor estimates suggest “that there are additional numbers of targeted academics, including those with advanced degrees, whose deaths have not been tallied.” 

They were “crushed to death beneath the rubble, along with members of their families and other displaced families,” it said. Adding that “Initial data indicates that there is no justification or clear reason behind the targeting of these people.”

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‘Israel Systematically Destroys Universities’

The targeted academics studied and taught across a variety of academic disciplines, and “many of their ideas served as cornerstones of academic research in the Gaza Strip’s universities,” the rights group said.

It added that given the systematic and widespread destruction by Israeli forces of cultural buildings, including institutions of great historical significance, “it is highly likely that Israel is intentionally targeting every aspect of life in Gaza.”

“Israel systematically destroyed every university in the Gaza Strip in stages over the course of the more than 100-day attack,” EuroMed Monitor stressed.

The first stage included the bombing of the Islamic and Al-Azhar universities. The other universities suffered similar assaults; some, like Al-Israa University in southern Gaza, were totally destroyed after initially being used as military barracks.

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The Israeli media released a video on Wednesday, January 17, capturing Al-Israa’s explosion, it said.

The explosion occurred 70 days after the Israeli military transformed the school into barracks and, later, into a temporary detention facility.

In a press statement, Al-Israa University said that the assault extended beyond the main building to include the national museum, which contained over 3,000 rare archaeological artifacts. The occupying forces looted these valuable assets before destroying the museum.

Hundreds of University Students Killed

According to preliminary estimates, the ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of university students, the rights group said.

It pointed out that destroying universities and killing academics and students “will make it more difficult to resume university and academic life when the genocide ends.”

“It may take years for studies to be resumed in an environment that has been completely destroyed,” the group added. 

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, 4,327 students have been killed and 7,819 others injured, while 231 teachers and administrators have been killed and 756 injured during the ongoing attacks, reports Euro-Med Monitor. Meanwhile, 281 state-run schools and 65 UNRWA-run schools in the Gaza Strip have been completely or partially destroyed.

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Ninety percent of state-run schools have been subjected to direct or indirect damage, and about 29% of school buildings remain out of service as a result of their being completely demolished or severely damaged. There are 133 other schools being used as shelter centers in the Strip.

“Israel’s widespread and intentional destruction of Palestinian cultural and historical properties, including universities, schools, libraries, and archives, demonstrates its apparent policy of rendering the Gaza Strip uninhabitable,” the rights group stressed.

Refaat Alareer and Sufian Tayeh

The attacks are creating an environment devoid of basic services and necessities and may eventually force the Strip’s population to emigrate, it said.

It said “the targeting of civilian objects by armed forces, particularly those that are historical or cultural artifacts protected by special laws, is not only a serious breach of international humanitarian law and a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but falls under the purview of the crime of genocide.”

Amongst the academics and intellectuals killed in Israeli attacks are Professor Sufian Tayeh, who was classified in 2021, as one of two percent of the best researchers in the world, according to the Quds News Network; and English literature Professor Refaat Alareer, an author and poet as well as founder of the We are Not Numbers project.

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According to Euro-Med Monitor, which collected information from witnesses and family accounts, “the apartment where Refaat and his family were sheltering was surgically bombed out of the entire building where it’s located”.

“Refaat was one of my inspirations in Gaza. Beyond brilliant and charming, he was simply kind and genuine as a person,” Ramzy Baroud, a Gaza-born intellectual and author said.

Alareer communicated some of his last thoughts through his X profile.

“If I must die, you must live to tell my story,” he said in a poem, written in 2011 and published on X on November 1. “If I must die, let it bring hope, let it be a tale”.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 25,105 Palestinians have been killed, and 62,681 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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