By Amelia Casey-Rerhaye, Senior Foreign Affairs Editor
On the morning of January 18th, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) levelled Israa University. A drone video published by Israeli media outlets captures the destruction of the last standing university in the Gaza Strip, which was eradicated by 315 mines detonated in and around the structure.
As the last standing university in Gaza, the loss of this institution leaves an irreparable scar on Gaza, as Palestinians are stripped of their identity and cultural integrity. The video of the university’s obliteration comes among recent waves of footage showing Israeli soldiers executing premeditated attacks on the Gaza Strip, ensuring it is uninhabitable for residents who may survive this war.
Israa University put out a statement on Facebook after the demolition, stating that the university buildings were being used by soldiers as a base and a centre for temporary detention and interrogation of captives during the ground assault on Gaza. Israa University is now among more than 390 educational institutes that Israel has completely or partially demolished since October 7th. It was also the last surviving university of the seven in the city. The destruction was not limited to the university’s main buildings but also included the graduate school, other campus buildings in north and south Gaza City, and the first and only university hospital in Gaza. The university went on to declare that soldiers had looted the adjacent National Museum, which contained thousands of rare artefacts, before it was also razed to the ground alongside the academic buildings.
Rather than being indicative of the chaos and brutality of war, the premeditated and controlled nature of Israa University’s complete annihilation was likened by an Associated Press journalist to the deliberate demolition of state infrastructure in the US. Targeting education centres is standard behaviour for the Israeli military. Birzeit University in the West Bank, among others, has suffered repeated raids over the past two decades, the latest being in September 2023, in which eight students were arrested, including the Student Council President. 80 of the 2000 students who were arrested during these repeated raids remain in jail today.
The war on Gaza is not only a surface-level attack on the people of Gaza but part of a continuous endeavour to tear the sense of national identity from the Palestinian people. Through the destruction of Palestinian educational institutes, the next generation of Palestinians are left without access to their culture, heritage, or generational knowledge. Similarly, the attacks on cultural sites such as the National Museum eradicate the history of the Palestinian people, erasing Palestinian existence from the global storyboard.
Not only is Israel murdering, violently displacing, and starving the people of Gaza, but it is also systematically removing the identity of the Palestinian people and the connection they have with their heritage and culture.
Photo caption: Israa University in Gaza City being demolished by 315 mines (Photo Credit: WAFA News Agency)