Palestinian campus death toll passes 400, says ministry

More than 400 students and university staff have been killed in Israeli attacks launched after Hamas’ raid on the country, according to Palestinian authorities.

On 31 October, the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education – based in the West Bank – reported that 427 students and a dozen staff had been killed in reprisals, with 85 per cent of casualties in the heavily bombarded Gaza Strip. The rest were in the West Bank.

“It is likely that the actual number is greater than that, with the presence of large numbers of people still under the rubble in the Gaza Strip,” the ministry added in a statement.

Eleven university facilities have been “completely or partially damaged”, nine of them in Gaza and two in the West Bank, according to the report. Two universities – the Islamic University of Gaza and Al-Azhar University – sustained serious damage last week. The Israel Defense Forces claimed that the former was used as a Hamas training ground.

A board member at the ministry told Times Higher Education that activities at 19 institutions in Gaza have been disrupted, with 88,000 students unable to continue learning.

In the West Bank, university activities are also on pause. Nearly all 34 institutions there are operating in online mode, citing danger of movement for students and staff because of heightened security between checkpoints and ongoing violence.

At Al-Quds University, located in East Jerusalem, one professor has been detained by Israeli authorities, according to a researcher there. The university has been gas bombed on a daily basis, and at least one fire has broken out as a result of shelling, THE understands.

After the Hamas attacks killed 1,400 Israelis, the death toll on the Palestinian side has now reportedly passed 8,000.

As previously reported, academics in the West Bank have been unable to reach colleagues and students in Gaza until recently.

On 11 October, water and power to the Israeli-controlled territory was shut off. Even now, civilians in Gaza continue to flee their homes to avoid shelling, with thousands estimated to be internally displaced.

“In the wake of relentless destruction due to the continuous war in Gaza, power cuts, severed networks and mass displacement, higher education institutions in Gaza stand not only physically shattered but also disconnected between administration, faculty and students, rendering this semester utterly paralysed,” said Elham Kateeb, dean of scientific research at Al-Quds.

Meanwhile, Israeli universities have suspended scores of Palestinian students amid reports of mob violence.