Birzeit -- Birzeit University and its administration, faculty and students strongly condemn the Israeli army's pre-dawn unprovoked, indiscriminate and illegal invasion of the town of Birzeit and surrounding villages today and its mass detention of approximately 200 Birzeit University students. Israel's seizure of almost 10% of the Birzeit University student body is a grave violation of human rights and the rule of law on a scale unprecedented in the University's bitter history under Israeli military occupation. It is thus a negative and highly counterproductive signal to a whole generation of students and young people that their rights to education, to the due process of law and to freedom from arbitrary arrest are still in grave jeopardy, as well as a signal to Palestinian residents of West Bank villages that their homes and homeplace are subject to assault at will.

In the pre-dawn hours this morning, large contingents of Israeli army and security services moved into the town of Birzeit. With loudspeakers blaring that the town was under curfew, teams of soldiers invaded student houses and three apartment buildings housing students, breaking doors, windows and damaging other property as students, and other residents, were seized and taken away. Initial eyewitnesses report that residents of the three buildings were detained without discrimination and estimate detentions from the town of Birzeit at well over 100, including at least one faculty member. The surrounding villages of Abu Qash and Abu Skeidem were also raided. Initial reports reigster at least 41 students arrested from Abu Qash alone.

By noon today, University officials, and the attorney of the University's Human Right Action Project have been unable to ascertain where the students are being held. Although Israeli radio reports affirmed that the raid was directed against the University's Gaza students, a narrow majority of arrests reported to date by eyewitnesses are of students from the West Bank. In relation to Gaza students, the University continues to uphold firmly their right to study at Birzeit University without harassment, and points out that this principle is confirmed by the interim agreements which clearly consider the West Bank and Gaza to be a "single territorial unit."

Travel to the University was blocked until approximately 11AM this morning, leaving students and teachers stranded along the road. Immediately following the opening of the road, officials of the Council for Higher Education and the Ministry of Education came to the University to consult with university administrators about the grave situation. The University believes this is an occasion for all parties interested in the continuance of Palestinian higher education, and the right of education and safety of Palestinian students -as well as the safety and security of Palestinian towns and villages - to stand together against these hostile, provocative and counterproductive Israeli measures.