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13 Birzeit students kidnapped by Israeli forces remain in jail since mid-July

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An Israeli prison guard keeps watch from a tower at Ayalon prison. (Photo by Reuters)

Thirteen students of Birzeit University students, who were arrested by Israeli forces following their solidarity visit to the family of a Palestinian prisoner in the occupied West Bank last month, are still behind bars in Israeli jails, the Islamic Bloc, the student wing of Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, says.

Ismail al-Barghouthi, the coordinator of the Islamic Bloc at the university, made the remarks on Sunday, adding that five of the students are being held in the notorious al-Moskobyia detention center in West al-Quds, while eight others are in Ofer Prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Information Center reported.

Barghouthi went on to say that all the detainees are members of the Islamic Bloc, stressing that the Tel Aviv regime seeks to undermine the determination of the student wing of Hamas and prevent it from assuming its role in serving university students.

In mid-July, Israeli forces arrested dozens of Birzeit University students after they visited the family of Palestinian prisoner Muntaser al-Shalabi whose house was razed in Turmus Ayya town, north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

According to the Islamic Bloc, Israeli forces “kidnapped 45 male and female Birzeit students after they returned from a visit to the family of Shalabi.”

Barghouthi said at the time Israeli forces aboard two commercial vehicles intercepted a bus carrying the students on a road at the main entrance to Turmus Ayya. The regime’s forces then rounded the students up and confiscated the bus they were aboard, he added.

The development came almost a week after the Israeli regime destroyed Shalabi’s house when he was accused and convicted by and 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.”

Israel repeatedly destroys houses of Palestinians whom it accuses of involvement in attacks on its forces as part of its punitive measure program, which has been strongly denounced by Palestinians and human rights advocates across the world.

Following the incident, Birzeit University strongly condemned the detention of its students by Israeli forces, explaining that the students’ vehicle was blocked and they were arrested and taken to an unknown location afterwards.

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 defend their just causes.

Israeli 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.

More than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in some 17 Israeli jails, with dozens of them serving multiple life sentences.

Palestinian inmates have been subjected to systematic torture, harassment and repression all through the years of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

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