In a move denounced as a gross violation of Palestinian students’ right to freedom of movement, Israeli forces have arrested dozens of Birzeit University students after they visited the family of Palestinian-American prisoner Muntaser al-Shalabi in Turmus Ayya town, north of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
On Wednesday evening, the Israeli forces “kidnaped 45 male and female Birzeit students after they returned from a visit to the family of Shalabi,” the Palestinian Information Center reported, citing the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas’s student wing, the Islamic Bloc.
Ismail al-Barghouthi, the coordinator of the Islamic Bloc at the university, said that the Israeli forces aboard two commercial vehicles intercepted a bus carrying the students on a road at the main entrance to Turmus Ayya.
He explained that the regime’s forces then rounded the students up and confiscated the bus they were aboard.
This afternoon a group of Birzeit University students went to visit the family of a Palestinian prisoner whose home had just been demolished. All 45 of the students were arrested by the Israeli Occupation military on the spot. #الحرية_لطلاب_بيرزيت— Mohammed El-Kurd (@m7mdkurd) July 14, 2021
The Turmus Ayya municipality also reported that the Israeli forces vacated the bus, tied the students’ hands, blindfolded them and checked their ID cards before taking them away.
The Israeli military claimed the students were “directly involved in terrorist activities, which included money transfers, incitement and the organization of Hamas activities in the West Bank.”
Last Thursday, the Israeli regime destroyed Shalabi’s house after he was accused and convicted, in an Israeli court, of involvement in a shooting incident that occurred months earlier in the occupied West Bank.
The demolition of Shalabi’s house sparked clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli troops, as a result of which some 200 Palestinians were injured.
Hamas denounced the demolition as “a barbaric and terrorist act practiced by criminal gangs,” while the US refrained from any strong criticism of the Israeli measure, with the US embassy in Israel saying, “As we stated numerous times, the home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual.”
Israel repeatedly destroys houses of Palestinians whom it accuses of involvement in attacks as part of its punitive measure program, which has been strongly denounced by Palestinians and human rights advocates across the world.
Birzeit University slams students’ detention
Following the Wednesday incident, Birzeit University strongly condemned the detention of its students by the Israeli forces, explaining that the students’ vehicle was blocked on Wednesday evening, and they were arrested and led to an unknown location afterwards.
“Such acts are part of a systematic policy by the Israeli occupation that contravenes all international laws and norms that guarantee students’ right to movement. It is a flagrant attack on students’ dignity and freedom,” Birzeit University said in a statement published via its Twitter account.
“We call on all international academic and human rights organizations to push for an immediate release of our students, whose rights — enshrined in several international laws and conventions — are grossly violated by the Israeli occupation regularly and relentlessly,” it added.
Birzeit University strongly condemns the detention of several students by Israeli forces near Turmus Aya, where their vehicle was blocked and they were arrested and led to an unknown location. pic.twitter.com/vrsQAvA9cO— Birzeit University (@BirzeitU) July 14, 2021
The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) also denounced the detention, saying the Israeli military’s targeting of Palestinian students, particularly those at Birzeit University, is an attempt to undermine their leadership role and their right to participate in and to defend their just causes.
The Israeli occupation authorities have intensified their measures against Birzeit University students and detained dozens of students, disrupting their pursuit of higher education, which is a violation of their right to education, the rights group added.