How the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza’s schools and universities is creating a lost generation

Special How the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza’s schools and universities is creating a lost generation
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Academics warn the destruction of Gaza’s schools and other educational institutions by the Israeli military could end up creating a lost generation. (AFP photos)
Special How the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza’s schools and universities is creating a lost generation
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Tarek al-Anabi, a 25-year-old Palestinian man, gathers displaced children at the Taha Hussein school eles between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants. (AFP)
Special How the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza’s schools and universities is creating a lost generation
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Academics warn the destruction of Gaza’s schools and other educational institutions by the Israeli military could end up creating a lost generation. (AFP photo)
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Updated 08 February 2024
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How the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza’s schools and universities is creating a lost generation

How the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza’s schools and universities is creating a lost generation
  • Academics say “wholesale destruction” of Gaza’s education system renders the Palestinian territory uninhabitable
  • Israel insists its forces only bombed schools and universities because Hamas was using them as training camps

LONDON: Children and young people who survive Israel’s military campaign in Gaza stand little chance of receiving a proper education as the destruction wrought on the Palestinian enclave reduces its schools, colleges and universities to rubble.

Al-Israa was the last of Gaza’s four universities that was still standing after more than three months of bombardment. However, in mid-January, the Israeli army, which had been encamped in its grounds, blew it up.

Footage shared on social media by Nicola Perugini, an associate professor at the University of Edinburgh, showed the moment the building collapsed, having reportedly been rigged with explosives. In response, Perugini called for “a full academic boycott” of Israel.

 

 

He is not alone. The British Middle East Center for Studies and Research has also decried the “wholesale destruction” of Gaza’s education system and has urged UK universities to offer more support to educators and institutions in the Palestinian territory.

A BRISMES email sent to UK vice-chancellors said: “Israel has systematically destroyed all Gaza’s universities. Footage shared by the BBC shows Al-Israa being completely destroyed. This act of wanton destruction follows repeated targeting since the start of the war.”

 

 

The email went on to ask UK institutions to “commit to set up placements, fellowships, and scholarships” for Palestinian students, enhance placements for Palestinian academics, and offer inter-institutional cooperation.

Noting with “regret” such offerings were not currently in place, BRISMES lambasted what it claimed was a “clear double standard when set against responses to Russia’s attack on Ukraine,” calling for the same level of support for Gazans.

“Within four months of Russia’s invasion, 71 partnerships were in place with Ukrainian universities and UK universities had come forward in their droves to support their Ukrainian counterparts, backed by UK government initiatives and funding,” the email added.

Certainly, the loss of Al-Israa highlights the multi-generational repercussions this war will have for those who survive it. Many now share BRISMES’ view that such losses are in fact a key objective of the Israeli government.




Palestinians walks past the damaged building of one of the faculties of the Azhar University in Gaza City on November 26, 2023, on the third day of a truce between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Birzeit University, a West Bank-based Palestinian institute, condemned the destruction of Al-Israa as yet another “part of the Israeli occupation’s onslaught against the Palestinians … (the goal of which is) to make Gaza uninhabitable; a continuation of the genocide.”

Samia Al-Botmeh, assistant professor of economics at Birzeit, told Times Higher Education magazine that the deliberate destruction of large public buildings, including universities, required significant planning, stressing it could only have been done as part of an intentional plan to make Gaza “uninhabitable.”

She said: “The destruction of the education sector is part of this overarching strategy of the destruction of every aspect of service in Gaza that makes life there possible.”

Neve Gordon, a professor of human rights law at Queen Mary University, even described it as “educide.”

 

Israel has sought to defend its bombing of education institutes, claiming these buildings were being used by Hamas as training camps. Gordon told Times Higher Education the damage wrought would take “10-20 years to recover from.”

Nor is it just the infrastructure that has come under assault. Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has recorded the killing of 94 university academics by the Israeli army in the course of the war, 17 of whom held professorships and 58 doctoral degrees.

Geneva-based Euro-Med said: “The Israeli army has targeted academic, scientific, and intellectual figures in the Strip in deliberate and specific air raids on their homes without prior notice.

“Those targeted have been crushed to death beneath the rubble, along with members of their families and other displaced families. Initial data indicates there is no justification or clear reason behind the targeting of these people.”

 

 

Others have been less certain of claims about the deliberate targeting of education, among them Yossi Mekelberg, associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, and a strident critic of Israel’s war on Gaza.

Mekelberg said that while the destruction of Gaza’s schools and universities was “of course” part of the overall strategy in Gaza, he was less convinced that preventing education in the Strip was a priority for the Israeli military at this moment.

Stressing that it was by no means intended to justify the behavior, he told Arab News the Israeli war plan was to treat “the entire Strip as collateral damage, and sadly education suffers too.”




Displaced Palestinian children attend a Qur'an class at Bear al-Saba school in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on January 24, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Similarly, Julia Roknifard, an assistant professor at the University of Nottingham’s School of Politics, History and International Relations, said she had yet to see any “explicit or implicit” testimonies that this was in fact the plan.

“At the very least, it falls within the general approach of the right,” she told Arab News. “As in, not specifically weaponizing education but destroying all the infrastructure. It’s hard to single out education in these circumstances when all the rest is subject to destruction too.”

As Gaza’s university system lies in ruins, its schools are faring little better. Figures from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report that as of Feb. 4, some 78 percent of schools — representing 386 institutions — had sustained damage, with 138 having sustained major damage.

 

Phillippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the embattled UN Relief and Works Agency, said that widespread damage would result in a “lost generation” of Gazan youth.

Speaking to the BBC after footage emerged of Israeli army troops celebrating the destruction of a UN-run school in northern Gaza, Lazzarini said: “There are today more than half a million children in the primary and secondary school system.“How will they go back if you cannot bring people back to their homes, which have been completely destroyed? And I’m afraid that we’re running the risk here of losing a generation of children.”

 

A senior Israeli official told the BBC it was necessary to destroy the school because Hamas militants “cynically invade and use schools to launch attacks against Israeli troops.”

Critics have accused the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu of deliberately reducing Gazan schools to debris as part of a process of “collective punishment” for the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks.

In a statement, UNESCO sought to remind “all actors” of their obligations to comply with Resolution 2601 of 2021, which “strongly condemned” attacks and threats against schools, students and teachers.

 

 

Noting the UN Security Council’s adoption of the resolution, it added that “UNESCO urges all parties to armed conflict to immediately cease such attacks and threats of attacks and to refrain from actions that impede access to education.

“This resolution also ‘condemns the military use of schools in contravention of international law and recognizes that use by armed forces and armed groups may render schools legitimate targets of attack, thus endangering children’s and teachers’ safety as well as their education.’”




Israeli troops hold a position in front of a school during a military operation in the northern Gaza Strip. (Israeli Army photo / handout via AFP)

Al-Botmeh of Birzeit University told Times Higher Education that learning had been a “mechanism of resistance” for the Palestinian people — a fact she said Israel’s government well understood.

That is why Israel is “trying to undermine our capacity to survive, resist, our capacity to continue as a people,” she said, adding that while such efforts would undermine the process of rebuilding, “it will not stop us.

“People around the world are not broken by colonizers.”

 


Tunisian authorities investigate a fire at a synagogue, question a suspect in custody

Tunisian forces secure an area near the Ghriba synagogue following a shootout on the resort island of Djerba on May 10, 2023.
Tunisian forces secure an area near the Ghriba synagogue following a shootout on the resort island of Djerba on May 10, 2023.
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Tunisian authorities investigate a fire at a synagogue, question a suspect in custody

Tunisian forces secure an area near the Ghriba synagogue following a shootout on the resort island of Djerba on May 10, 2023.
  • In May, five people were killed in a shooting attack on the historic Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia’s island of Djerba

TUNIS, Tunisia: A man believed to have started a fire in a garden at a synagogue in the east of Tunisia is in custody and under investigation for targeting a Jewish house of worship, officials said Saturday.
Hichem ben Ayad, the public prosecutor in the eastern port city of Sfax, told The Associated Press that a garden in the courtyard of the city’s synagogue was set on fire last Sunday. An investigation was opened and a suspect was arrested, he said.
The suspect is a public official his late 40s, ben Ayad said. He is being questioned to establish if the fire — which the prosecutor said was “a criminal act” — was premediated and deliberately targeted the Jewish house of worship.
There were no casualties in the fire that was extinguished the same day, ben Ayad said. He added that the blaze did not cause significant damage to the building. The synagogue appeared to be empty at the time, he said.
In May, five people were killed in a shooting attack on the historic Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia’s island of Djerba. Authorities said a Tunisian national guardsman was behind the attack.
The assailant intentionally targeted the ancient synagogue on the Mediterranean island in a premeditated act, Tunisian officials said.

 


Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4

Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4
Updated 03 March 2024
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Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4

Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4
  • Last month, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree to dissolve parliament

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait called on Saturday for voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4, Kuwait News Agency said.

On Wednesday, government spokesman Amer Al-Ajmi said the Kuwaiti Cabinet had approved a draft emiri decree inviting voters to elect the National Assembly and added that registration of candidates would begin on March 4.

Last month, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree to dissolve the parliament.

The decree was based on the national assembly’s “violation of the constitutional principles,” KUNA added.

The assembly was elected in June 2023 following a proposal by the prime minister that was approved by the cabinet.


Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes

Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes
Updated 02 March 2024
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Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes

Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes
  • Protesters denounce the implementation of "diktats" from the IMF at the expense of ordinary Tunisians
  • Tunisia's economy is at a standstill with growth of 0.4 percent and an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent in 2023

TUNIS: Thousands protested deteriorating living standards outside the prime minister’s office in Tunis on Saturday following a call from Tunisia’s main trade union confederation.

“The economic and social situation continues to worsen,” the confederation’s head, Noureddine Taboubi, said in a speech to protesters.
Taboubi said the state’s ability to service its foreign debt in 2023 had been “to the detriment of the people and resulted in shortages of basic products.”
He criticized the implementation of “diktats from the International Monetary Fund” (IMF) at the expense of ordinary Tunisians.
The Tunisian economy is at a standstill with growth of 0.4 percent and an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent in 2023, according to the National Institute of Statistics.
Unemployment stood at 15.2 percent at the end of 2022.
President Kais Saied has ruled by decree since a July 2021 power grab and last year rammed through a constitution that gave his office unlimited powers and neutered parliament.
Weathering a grave economic crisis, Tunis concluded an agreement with the IMF in October 2022 for a $2 billion loan facility.
But loan tranches stalled when the president rejected reforms demanded by the IMF.
 


Investigation into death of El-Arish University student reopened

Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard in Cairo. (AFP file photo)
Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard in Cairo. (AFP file photo)
Updated 02 March 2024
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Investigation into death of El-Arish University student reopened

Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard in Cairo. (AFP file photo)
  • El-Zoghbi’s father Salah said: “I do not know the details of what Naira faced, but we approached the prosecution after finding threatening messages from some of her peers on her phone

CAIRO: The Egyptian Public Prosecutor decided on Saturday to reopen the investigation into the death of Naira Salah El-Zoghbi, a 21-year-old veterinary medicine student at El-Arish University in North Sinai whose death 10 days ago was originally recorded as a suicide.

Allegations of blackmail and bullying linked to El-Zoghbi’s death have been circulated widely on social media.

Ahmed Salama, the lawyer representing El-Zoghbi’s family, told Arab News: “The prosecution ordered the exhumation of the victim’s body to determine the cause of death. Her grave in the village of Meet Tarif, her hometown in the Dakahlia governorate, was opened under security surveillance to take necessary samples.”

Salama added: “Investigations are underway to uncover the circumstances of the girl’s death, awaiting the forensic report that will be issued and announced in due time.

“There might be a criminal angle because we learned that a cat which drank from the same cup as Naira died instantly.”

El-Zoghbi’s father Salah said: “I do not know the details of what Naira faced, but we approached the prosecution after finding threatening messages from some of her peers on her phone.

“I was unaware of what exactly happened to my daughter, but I was surprised by a call from the university requesting my presence. Upon arrival, I learned of Naira’s death without knowing the cause. After going to the hospital, it turned out my daughter died from acute poisoning, and her body was released for burial last Sunday.”

He added: “I was surprised by (claims) on social media that several of her peers had blackmailed her due to disputes and because she was distinguished and excelled academically. However, I did not know the nature of these problems or the blackmail. Naira used to talk to her mother and tell her about some normal issues with her peers, but she didn’t know the real reasons behind these problems.”

Egyptian newspapers quoted El-Zoghbi’s mother as saying that she received a call from her daughter, who was in distress due to severe “cramps and vomiting.”

Her mother advised her to take some painkillers, but, shortly after, the university called to inform the family that El-Zoghbi had been taken to hospital. By the time her family arrived in El-Arish, El-Zoghbi had already been pronounced dead.

One of El-Zoghbi’s fellow students, who asked to remain anonymous and was among those who initiated the “Justice for El-Arish Student” campaign on Facebook, told Arab News: “I joined peers in a campaign to demand justice for Naira, and we found overwhelming support.

“We knew there were disputes between (Naira) and one of her roommates following a verbal altercation in the presence of several students.

“Some students said that her roommate had secretly photographed her in the bathroom to humiliate and bully her due to the altercation that occurred between them.”

Some of El-Zoghbi’s friends claimed her roommate had sent El-Zoghbi threats, demanding an apology and warning that otherwise she would expose her by posting her pictures on social-media platforms.

El-Zoghbi apparently complied and apologized on a private WhatsApp group for the university’s students.

A source from the university administration revealed details of the incident to Arab News, saying: “The student swallowed a pesticide pill while she was on campus and survived for more than 12 hours. Attempts were made to treat her at the hospital, but she eventually passed away.”

 


UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid

UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid
Updated 02 March 2024
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UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid

UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid
  • FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, during talks with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, said that Cairo’s support for Gaza had prevented the humanitarian situation in the enclave from further deteriorating

CAIRO: The head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has praised Egypt for supporting Gaza with humanitarian aid.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, during talks with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, said that Cairo’s support for Gaza had prevented the humanitarian situation in the enclave from further deteriorating.

“This is not new for Egypt; this country has had the capacity and expertise for thousands of years to play its important regional role,” he said.

“The FAO is doing its utmost to support the people of Gaza in cooperation with other UN organizations and relevant parties; to ensure the alleviation of the suffering of innocent people.”

Speaking to the media, Madbouly said: “The war in Gaza has had its reflections on the neighboring countries of the conflict zone, including Egypt.

“Nevertheless, most of the aid reaching there is sourced from Egypt, contributing over 80 percent of the total humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip so far.”

Egypt “looks forward to the support of the FAO to ensure the delivery and increase of aid,” Madbouly added.

Ashraf Abu Hajr, a political expert, told Arab News: “Egypt’s cooperation with the FAO will undoubtedly yield positive results on the issue of delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza, as Egypt continues its efforts at all levels to support our Palestinian brethren.

“Over the past five months, Egypt has received 40,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid from countries around the world to be delivered to Gaza, while Cairo has provided 100,000 tonnes, illustrating that Egypt has sent nearly two-thirds of the humanitarian aid to the sector.”

He added: “Egypt has prioritized sending aid to Gaza, saving its inhabitants, and has worked on including in it food, water and medicine to help Palestinians withstand and thwart Israeli plans for forced displacement.

“Egypt is looking for newer ways every day to introduce humanitarian aid, whether by land through the Rafah crossing, or by air. Cairo has mobilized global public opinion, drawing attention to the crimes committed against our brethren in Palestine.”