BIRZEIT UNIVERSITY

 

 

 

January 17, 2004

Violations by the Israeli Occupation Army

 Against the Birzeit University Community

 

Summary Report

  January 2003 – December 2003

 

In December 2002, Birzeit University issued its first summary report of the violations being carried out against the Birzeit University community by the Israeli Occupation army from the start of the current violence in September 2000. 

This report chronicles the various violations that have been conducted by the Israeli army against the Birzeit University community from January 1, 2003 – December 31, 2003.

1) The Birzeit-Ramallah Road – One of numerous Israeli Checkpoints and Roadblocks preventing access to education

The Roadblock and Checkpoint situated on the Ramallah Birzeit Road at the Surda junction since March 2001 continued to hinder movement and access to Birzeit University up until it was removed on December 3, 2003.  It remains open till the date of this report. 

Prior to the removal of the checkpoint, the Israeli occupation army officers manning the checkpoint randomly stopped students, faculty members and other residents of the area and harassed them, beat them, detained them for hours or arrested them.  To ensure that no vehicular traffic was possible, parts of the road were severely damaged.  Bulldozers, trenches, dirt hills and cement blocks were strewn over a kilometer of the road making it quite treacherous to traverse by foot in the best of weather conditions.  To assist individuals who are unable to cross, horse drawn carriages were utilized.  However, these carriages became a problem as well because the horses would sometimes become uncontrollable and run down the pedestrians causing injuries. At other times, when the Israeli soldiers were absent from the roadblock, the dirt mounds were flattened and the blocks were moved by civilians attempting to cross with their vehicles.  However, fear of the sudden return of the soldiers entailed that the vehicles would race through the roadblock also causing injury to pedestrians.

Since the beginning of the year, the Israeli Army has totally closed the roadblock on the Ramallah Birzeit Road, prohibiting even pedestrians from traveling between Ramallah and Birzeit University and the surrounding villages for a total of 10 work days.  Further, curfews placed on Ramallah and Birzeit prohibited the functioning of the University for a total of 4 days.  As a result, Birzeit lost 14 working days total. Following is a detailed account of the development on the checkpoint during this period. 

Throughout this period, Israeli soldiers stationed at the checkpoint would arbitrarily withdraw from the vicinity of the checkpoint, at which point civilians who are in need of crossing attempted to run from one end of the 1.5 kilometer stretch to the other.  Within minutes the Israeli army jeeps would return through the by-pass road and chase after pedestrians sometimes shooting live ammunition, rubber bullets and sound bombs.   For almost three hours on Saturday, October 11, 2003, hundreds of civilians were caught in the middle of the checkpoint, prohibited from either going to Ramallah or to Birzeit and the surrounding villages.  When they were finally allowed to pass some civilians were beaten, kicked or punched by the Israeli soldiers.

On October 14, 2003, over 100 students and faculty members held a makeshift class at the checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road which remained closed for the 7th consecutive day.  Students, frustrated at their inability to reach the University, and at the loss of yet another day of classes, came together carrying placards with statements such as Yes to Education, No to Occupation and Open Minds: Open the Way to Education.  The next day the road was reopened midday for pedestrian crossing.

Five faculty members had medical problems were forced to take a leave of absence without pay for the entire year due to their inability to continue traversing the various checkpoints between their places of residence and Birzeit University.  Three faculty members who were in the Gaza Strip at the outset of the current violence, have been unable to return to their posts within the University.  

On December 3, 2003 the checkpoint was removed and remains open up to date of this report.  However, the checkpoint was removed twice prior to this date and consequently reinstated.  As a result, while the University community considers the removal of the checkpoint of great importance, the proper functioning of the educational system will not be possible without a true and lasting peace which entails the removal of all Israeli military checkpoints and the end of the illegal Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

2.) Incursions into the Birzeit University Campus

During 2003, Israeli army jeeps entered the University on 4 occasions.  In addition, there were several incidents during which Israeli army jeeps stood at the gates of the campus instigating students.

On September 9, 2003 four Israeli occupation army jeeps entered the campus and searched the premises of Student Council, breaking down the door, destroying some equipment and ransacking the files.

On December 9, 2003 one jeep entered the campus, reaching one of the Faculties and preceded to turn around and leave.

These incursions are serious violations of all international norms and part of the continuing attempts by the Israeli occupation to impede the University from functioning.

3) Detentions and Arrests of Birzeit University Students and Staff

Birzeit University has been greatly affected by the illegal arrest and detention of students and faculty by the Israeli occupation authorities since the beginning of the current crises.  Currently, 74 members of the Birzeit University community are in Israeli prisons or are awaiting sentencing.  Of these more than 61 have been arrested or detained just during the past three years.  This includes one faculty member and two female students. 

4) Injury, Harassment and Theft by Israeli Army Personnel

On June 5, 2003, three students were injured at the entrance of the University gate when Israeli army soldiers fired rubber and live ammunition at students demonstrating against the soldiers who had closed off access to the University.

On June 23, 2003, the Israeli occupation forces carried out an incursion into the town of Birzeit, during which they broke into the houses of students and arrested more than fifty students from the University.  These students were subsequently released in less than a week’s time.   In addition, tens of complains were presented by students concerning theft by Israeli army officers of money and small electronic devices.  This past year there have been 10 other complaints by students of theft by the Israeli army.

During the month of October 2003, the Israeli occupation forces stopped a large number of students near the town of Abu-Kash, which is on the road between Ramallah and Birzeit. The students were asked about their telephone numbers and e-mail addresses and were placed one at a time in one of the jeeps and interrogated on the spot about their living conditions, places of residence, on-campus activities and the academic situation in the University.

On October 8, 2003, the Israeli army placed a curfew on the town of Birzeit from the early hours of the morning until the afternoon, prohibiting all residents of the town from leaving their homes. In one incident, Israeli soldiers forced 15 students to clean up one of the streets from rocks and debris, taking their identification cards from them. After the students had completed the task, the Israeli soldiers returned their ID cards and as they were returning to their homes, a second group of soldiers arrived on the scene and began randomly shooting at the students in clear sight of the first group of soldiers. Two students were injured; one student was seriously wounded when a live bullet fractured his leg; the other student was hit in the hand with a rubber bullet. An ambulance was called to the scene but was delayed for half an hour by the Israeli soldiers. When it could get through, the ambulance rushed both students to Ramallah Hospital where one of the students had to undergo surgery.

On November 12, 2003 an Israeli army vehicle hit a University student while she was attempting to cross the checkpoint at Surda on her way to the University.  She was taken to Ramallah Hospital for treatment of the bruises and swelling which she incurred as a result of the incident.

On December 9, 2003, an Israeli army jeep drove up to the entrance of the campus and shot rubber bullets injuring four students. 

5. Deportation and Refusal of Re-entry permits

During the past year, Birzeit University has lost two faculty members carrying foreign passports who were prohibited from re-entering the country after leaving to have their visa’s renewed.  Till now these two faculty members are being denied re-entry into the country.  Two international students studying in the Palestinian and Arabic Studies Program were similarly denied re-entry visas and had to forego the remainder of the semester as a result.

One student was deported because he does not hold an identity card. It is important to point out the tens of thousands of Palestinians, currently residing in the Palestinian territories are being denied identity cards and as such are in jeopardy of being deported.

 6. Conclusion:

In 2003 the Israeli occupation army continued to disrupt the work of all the Palestinian institutions of education and higher education.  Israeli practices are in direct contravention of the fourth article of the Geneva Conventions. Moreover, they negate any steps made towards a just and lasting resolution to the present conflict. There is a need for the immediate cessation of these violations in order for the University to resume its operations in a normal fashion.