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Right to Education Campaign, Birzeit University, 29 November 2004
On 29 November 2004, ironically marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, around 15 Israeli Army jeeps and Armoured Personnel Carriers drove into the town of Birzeit. Between 1a.m.-5a.m, Israeli soldiers went door-to-door, entering every house, flat and dormitory in the area, rounding up students, demanding to see their IDs and taking down their telephone numbers and other personal details.
At around 3.30a.m., soldiers entered one of the female student dormitories, getting everyone out of bed to check their IDs. One of the students, Noora, who was born in Jerusalem but grew up in Bethlehem, and does not have an ID due to related issues of residency rights, dreads the moment when soldiers will catch her without an ID. While the soldiers sat in the girls’ living room checking her flatmates, Noora hid inside her bedroom physically shaking with fear.
Many students were also photographed by soldiers. Hazem, a Computer Studies student, who works in an internet cafe in Birzeit, was walking home after the cafe had closed, when suddenly a group of soldiers with blackened faces jumped out of the trees to stop him on the road. “I was photographed like a criminal”, Hazem said, describing how he had to hold a placard in front of him, bearing his ID number and his name written across it in Hebrew.
The Israeli Army frequently enters the town of Birzeit at night, stopping anyone outside on the streets and forcibly entering student flats and dormitories. During the raids on 29 November, nobody was arrested, and the soldiers were not looking for anyone in particular. The impression among students is that the Israeli Army was carrying out an ominous and frightening ‘survey’ of the university students living in Birzeit. Gaza students are particularly concerned as last week, on 21 November, 4 Birzeit University students from Gaza were extrajudicially ‘deported’ back to the Gaza Strip. No charges had been made against the students and no written deportation orders were issued. A major campaign has been launched to bring back the four students to complete their studies at Birzeit University. See Urgent Appeal.