Gaza’s education system is being torn to shreds in Israel’s never-ending assault on the infrastructure

The Geneva-based human rights organization claimed that “Israel” systematically wiped out every university in the Gaza Strip bit by bit during a relentless 100-day assault.

  • Gaza’s education system is being torn to shreds in Israel’s never-ending assault on the infrastructure (Illustrated by Hadi Dbouk to Al Mayadeen)

“Israel” is pulling out all the stops to put a wrench in the educational infrastructure in Gaza, tearing down schools and universities left and right, and taking the lives of countless school-going children, teachers, university professors, and other faculty members.

A report by the Palestine Academy for Science and Technology sheds light on the heavy-handedness of Israeli military actions in Gaza, leaving an indelible imprint on the educational system and casting a long shadow that will reverberate through generations to come.

A struggling educational system, which is already on thin ice due to a decade-long blockade and sporadic military action by “Israel”, will hit rock bottom due to the widespread destruction of educational infrastructure, including libraries, laboratories, and classrooms, as well as the tragic loss of life among faculty, technicians, staff, and students during the last three months of refreshed atrocities.

During the ongoing attacks beginning on October 7, 2023, as many as 4,327 school-going children were martyred and 7,819 others injured, while 231 administrators and instructors also lost their lives and 756 were injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The number of schools in the Gaza Strip that have been either totally or partially damaged during this period includes 281 state-run schools and 65 schools run by UNRWA.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor’s report

In the meantime, the Israeli forces have killed 94 university professors, hundreds of teachers, and thousands of students as part of its genocidal war against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to a report published by Al Mayadeen last week.

“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, Euro-Med Monitor warned.

According to the Euro-Med Monitor, these attacks are hitting civilian targets and causing a situation where basic services and necessities are going down the drain. This could potentially push the Strip’s population to relocate to some other places. It made it crystal clear that when armed forces aim at civilian objects, especially ones that are as precious as historical or cultural artifacts protected by special laws, it’s not just a simple violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but it also falls right into the category of the crime of genocide.

The Geneva-based human rights organization claimed that “Israel” systematically wiped out every university in the Gaza Strip bit by bit during a relentless 100-day assault. The first stage kicked off with a bang, targeting the Islamic and Al-Azhar universities. The other universities faced the same attacks; some, like Al-Israa University in southern Gaza, were completely wiped out after being initially repurposed as military barracks. The Israeli media released on Wednesday 17 January,  a video clip showing Al-Israa’s explosion. The explosion took place 70 days down the line after the Israeli military turned the university into barracks and, then into a temporary detention facility.

The preliminary estimates suggest that the continuous Israeli assaults on the Gaza Strip have led to the fatalities of numerous university students. The human rights organization emphasized that the destruction of universities and the murder of academics and students will impede the resumption of university and academic activities once the genocide concludes. They noted that it may take a considerable amount of time for studies to recommence in a devastated environment.

The system is crumbling under a long-drawn blockade

The Palestine Academy for Science and Technology’s report reveals that the consequences of this conflict on Gaza’s higher education system are immeasurable. The widespread devastation of educational facilities, including libraries, laboratories, and classrooms, coupled with the terrible fatalities among instructors, technicians, staff, and students, will further worsen an already besieged educational system, which has been severely hindered by a 16-year-long blockade. The essential psychological, intellectual, and cultural foundation required for a prosperous academic community has been severely disrupted, and it will require a significant amount of time, potentially spanning several generations, to repair.

The protracted blockade on the Gaza enclave has significantly impeded the intellectual advancement of Palestinian academics. It has limited their ability to move within and outside of Gaza and the West Bank due to the Israeli occupation. Additionally, it has hindered the establishment of necessary infrastructure for educational, learning, and research purposes. The siege has completely cut off Gaza from the West Bank, eliminating any chances for teachers and students to engage in collaborative research and teaching. Additionally, it has imposed limitations on the movement of international students and faculty, preventing them from accessing Palestinian universities in Gaza. As a result, these institutions are unable to effectively carry out their educational objectives. Essentially, the embargo has turned Gaza into a confinement that restricts intellectual and educational activities, suppressing any kind of intellectual and cultural interaction.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), a non-profit NGO founded in 2010 by organizations involved in education in emergency and conflict-affected situations, reports that during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2014, a minimum of two universities, seven United Nations schools, and approximately 141 locally operated schools experienced significant destruction.

The non-governmental organization (NGO) highlighted that Israeli missiles targeted the Islamic University of Gaza, destroying a significant structure on the premises without causing any casualties. Gaza has seven universities, including the Islamic University, which was established in 1978 and is considered the largest academic institution in the strip, with more than 20,000 students, 63 percent of whom are women. The university offers courses in medicine, engineering, nursing, science, the arts, law, and Islamic studies.

Likewise, the organization went on to add that on July 29, 2014, occupation forces attacked the Al Quds Open University branch in north Gaza with mortars and missiles, resulting in the martyrdom of 22 students. “Tel Aviv” claimed that the attack was aimed at a satellite facility.”The assault seems to be directed at non-military establishments. The university, established with support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), also sustained significant damage. The NGO disclosed, quoting the Palestinian Ministry of Education, that an additional four universities and 141 local schools had incurred damage. However, the group was seeking additional data regarding the extent of damage to the universities. Seven schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency allegedly came under attack during the month-long assault on Gaza in 2014.

Flimsy excuses then, and now

According to the organization, the vice president of Al Quds Open University stated that their university was subjected to direct and indirect targeting on three separate occasions within a brief timeframe in 2014. According to him, the bombardment led to the relocation of 60 academic personnel and their families, as well as 2,500 students along with their family members. As a consequence, the university’s summer classes were canceled because as many as 10,000 students  had discontinued their studies.

The non-governmental organization (NGO) emphasized that in 2014, Israeli jets launched many missiles that struck the five-story central administration building of Abdul Aziz al-Luhaidan at the Islamic University, resulting in significant destruction of the structure. The Israeli military asserted that it was specifically aiming for a weapons research facility located within the institution.

In 2008, the University also faced an attack based on the same reasoning, resulting in $15 million worth of damage inflicted on the institution. There was no indication of weapons development discovered in the debris, and the academic members persistently denied any involvement of the university in such activities.

The Palestine Academy for Science and Technology made a heartfelt plea to the world community, stating that the 16-year blockade on the Gaza enclave has already put a damper on the intellectual development of Palestinian academics, limiting their freedom to move and communicate due to the Israeli occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank. In this pickle, the human rights committee of the academy said that the development of crucial infrastructure for teaching, learning, and research has gone down the drain. The academy claimed that the ongoing blockade has cut Gaza off from the West Bank, wiping out any chance for faculty and students to work together on research and teaching. Essentially, Gaza has become an intellectual and educational prison, completely stifling any kind of intellectual and cultural exchange.

The academy has called on the international community to step up and give “Israel” a taste of its own medicine for its flagrant disregard of international law and human rights. The Palestinian people, it said, must achieve their right to call the shots and have their own turf, and the global academic community bears an intellectual and moral duty to dig deeper and to step in right away to put a stop to aggression. They must stand up for the Palestinians and put a stop to this wave of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as bring an end to the ethnic cleansing happening throughout all of Palestine.

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