Disguised Israeli forces have stormed Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank and seized the head of the university’s student council. Two students were reportedly injured by gunfire during the raid.
Omar Kiswani was taken by soldiers who reportedly posed as journalists. The university posted footage of Wednesday’s raid online, showing a group of six men pinning Kiswani down and pointing their guns at onlookers.
According to the university, the attackers “carrying firearms in their backpacks, entered the campus during working hours and attacked the student in front of the Student Council Building.” It also called the operation a “barbaric intrusion” and said that two students were recovering in hospital after being injured when the Israeli forces fired into the campus.
Student council member Yahya Alawi, who witnessed the abduction, told the Palestinian Quds News Network that the Israelis “identified Omar and called over to him as if they wanted to interview him as journalists.” Alawi said they then “beat [Kiswani], pulled out their weapons, and a large group of occupation soldiers stormed through the main entrance of the university.”
عضو مجلس طلبة جامعة بيرزيت يحيى علوي: “المستعربون دخلوا متنكرين على شكل صحفيين لاعتقال رئيس المجلس عمر كسواني واعتدوا عليه تزامناً مع اقتحام قوات الاحتلال للجامعة”. pic.twitter.com/pfrTMhi9C9
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) March 7, 2018
The Union of Journalists in Israel issued a statement condemning the soldiers impersonation saying that they were “troubled” by “undercover forces impersonating a news crew at Bir Zeit University.” The union added: “Such behavior is likely to endanger real journalists doing their jobs and strikes a blow at freedom of the press. Journalistic work is important and journalists must not be endangered, even in order to conduct security operations.”
This is not the first time 24-year-old Kiswani has been arrested. He previously spent a year in prison for his participation in a group affiliated with Hamas on campus. Following his abduction on Wednesday, Israeli army troops covered the plainclothes operatives’ departure from the scene, firing shots at a group of students throwing stones.
“This is not the first violent intrusion by Israeli army forces, who systematically invade the university’s campus – even though it is specifically protected under international humanitarian law – and constantly harass students, faculty members, and staff at Birzeit University and other Palestinian educational institutions,” the university’s Right to Education Campaign wrote in a statement.
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