The Israeli attacks on Gaza has included systematic attacks on Gaza’s cultural and educational institutions. Israel has damaged or destroyed all 12 of Gaza’s universities. Some 280 government schools and 65 UNRWA-run schools have also been destroyed or damaged, often resulting in dozens of fatalities. About 133 remaining schools are used to shelter those displaced by the assault. More than 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes amid continued Israeli ground and air offensive that has killed more than 25,000 people, including 10,000 children.
The Geneva-based independent Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that Israel destroyed Gaza’s 12 universities in stages. The first stage included the bombing of the Islamic and Al-Azhar universities. On January 17th the Israeli military detonated 315 mines to turn Gaza’s last standing university, Al-Israa University, south of Gaza City, into rubble. The Israelis had occupied to the university for 70 days and used it as a military base, including positioning snipers within its buildings, as well as turning it into a detention and interrogation center. The university housed a museum with 3,000 archeological artifacts dating back to the Roman occupation. University authorities have charged Israeli soldiers with looting the museum blowing it up. Al-Israa University was home to the only university hospital in the Gaza Strip -- one of only two in Palestinian occupied territories – as well as buildings housing medical and engineering laboratories, nursing labs, media training studios, the law college’s court hall, and graduation halls.
The Israeli attacks have killed 94 university professors. These include Professor Sufian Tayeh, the president of the Islamic University of Gaza – an award-winning physicist and UNESCO chair of astronomy, astrophysics and space sciences in Palestine – who died, alongside his family, in an airstrike. Dr Ahmed Hamdi Abo Absa, dean of the software engineering department at the University of Palestine, reportedly shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he walked away, having been released from three days of enforced disappearance. Professor Muhammad Eid Shabir, professor of immunology and virology, and former president of the Islamic University of Gaza. Professor Refaat Alareer, poet and professor of comparative literature and creative writing at the Islamic University of Gaza, killed with members of his family. Some 4,327 students have been killed and 7,819 others have been injured. 231 teachers and administrators have also been killed.
Palestinians, who have one of the highest poverty rates on the planet, cherish education. They have one of the highest literacy rates in the world and Palestinian graduates excel in medicine, mathematics and engineering.
Israel appears determined to obliterate Palestinian cultural, educational and historical properties, part of its planned erasure of the Palestinian people. Images of Israeli troops cheering as schools are blown up have appeared on social media, including one video showing the demolition of a distinctive blue UN school in northern Gaza.
Joining me from Cairo to discuss the Israel’s wholesale destruction of Gaza’s educational and cultural institutions is Dr. Ahmed Alhussaina, the vice president of al Israa university. Dr. Alhussaina’s home block in Gaza was bombed by Israel, resulting in the death of 102 of his family members.
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