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Appeal, Birzeit University, 5 June 2001
Thousands of Birzeit University students and staff at 8:00 am today were confronted on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road by several Israeli military jeeps and soldiers barring them from continuing their way to the University. Dr. Hanna Nasir, President of Birzeit University, and Dr. Carmela Armanious-Omari, Vice President of Financial and Administrative Affairs, who were at the checkpoint, went up to the commanding officer to inquire about this irrational closure, insisting that the students be allowed to pass. During a heated verbal confrontation, where no rational reason was given for the closure, the soldiers called for reinforcements and threatened to use force unless the area was immediately evacuated.
As students proceeded to hold a sit in to protest the closure, an Israeli military vehicle charged towards them attempting to run them over. In response to the students’ persistence to pass, the Israeli soldiers threw sound bombs and fired rubber bullets, wounding one student, who was hospitalized. This confrontation continued for a few hours, at the end of which the students were forced to return to their homes, losing yet another day of classes.
The Ramallah-Birzeit Road has been closed to both University students and staff for the past four days. Since March, when the Israeli occupation forces dug up three trenches on the Ramallah-Birzeit road, roadblocks have been seriously delaying students and staff from reaching the University on time, if at all. Such delays, often taking over two hours, have drastically disrupted the current academic year.
This measure is also affecting the lives of 65,000 inhabitants of the 30 villages around Birzeit who are being hassled in their daily commute to Ramallah. The wave of violence against the Palestinian population has reached unprecedented proportions. The Israeli army’s policy of siege through blocking roads has made it practically impossible to meet people’s very basic needs.
Most Palestinian populated areas have already been hermetically sealed, disregarding all standards of dealing with civilians and contravening international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention. These measures of collective punishment are, in the full sense of the term, war crimes.
We, the faculty, staff and students of Birzeit University, urge all human rights advocates, all our supporters, colleagues and friends around the world to circulate this urgent appeal:
Call the nearest Israeli Embassy in your area
Send your protests to the Israeli Government
Mr. Romano Prodi
President, European Union
Mr. Koichiro Matsuura
Director General, UNESCO
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