OVER 3,000 STAFF AND STUDENTS DENIED ACCESS TO UNIVERSITY
Israeli authorities imposed a closure on the Ramallah/Al- Bireh district at 4.30am this morning, blocking all movement in and out of the district in all directions. This move severly hampered the access of some 3,000 Birzeit students, faculty and staff from the Jerusalem, Shu'fat, Beit Haninia and Ramallah areas. With a university community of 5,000 members, measures such as this effect a severe disruption to university life. This, and the continuing Israeli practice of collective punishment of an entire community represent ongoing violations of Articles 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
For the first time since the redeployment on 27 December 1995, Israeli soldiers totally closed the road between Ramallah (Area A) and Birzeit University (Area B), thereby preventing faculty, staff and students from travelling to the University. Additionally, the passage of emergency services vehicles was hampered by the checkpoint. This closure was imposed despite the fact that no Israeli settlements exist along this road neither do settlers use this road.
University officials began negotiating with the Israeli army at 8.00am to allow the staff and students to attend their classes. Students marched from Ramallah to the checkpoint to protest the closure, carrying signs reading, "There can be no peace if you deny us our right to education." Students on both sides of the checkpoint edged forwards until they closed the five meter wide gap, to cheers. Soldiers were issued with clubs by an officer and reinforcements arrived. At around 9.30am, a scuffle broke out between some students and soldiers after an attempt to move the students back, resulting in the violent arrest and clubbing of a first-year science faculty student. The student was released an hour later. At the time of writing, there is only limited passage between Ramallah and the University and therefore classes have been cancelled for the day, as Birzeit administration members continued to negotiate with Israeli authorities.
Birzeit University restates the right of its students to their education. Israel cannot continue to undermine this right by controlling freedom of movement between the Areas A & B specified by the Oslo accords. Today's events represents the first serious test of the Oslo accords for the University. Birzeit University therefore calls on the international community to immediately call for an end to these measures against the Palestinian community. Faxes of protest can be sent to the Military Commander of the West Bank on fax number +972-2-997-7326. Copies to the Public Relations Office at the fax number below.
Those with no fax access may wish to direct a few pertinent questions to the Israeli Government Information Service e-mail account, on:
Again, please send copies of all correspondence to:
PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE
P.O. Box 14, Birzeit
West Bank, Palestine.