Geneva - The Israeli army’s deliberate and pervasive targeting of educational institutions and cultural objects in the Gaza Strip is an additional manifestation of the ongoing crime of genocide that it has been committing since 7 October 2023, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said.

The current Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip have completely disrupted the educational process in all universities and colleges there, according to Euro-Med Monitor. Three university presidents have beenkilled in since 7 October, along with more than 95 university deans and professors; 68 of them held professor’s degrees. Meanwhile, 88,000 students have been deprived of receiving their university education and 555 students who were granted international scholarships have not been able to travel abroad due to the violence.

The rights organisation further stated that five out of six universities in the Gaza Strip have been either completely or partially destroyed. Three of these universities have been completely destroyed, according to the first census analysing the severity of destruction caused by the ongoing Israeli genocide in the Strip.

Israel’s army targeted Al-Aqsa University in Gaza City on 6 February, causing severe damage; two of its buildings were completely destroyed by the airstrikes. Prior to this, Israel completely destroyed Al-Israa University, Euro-Med Monitor confirmed. The rights group noted that Israel’s army blew up all of Al-Israa University’s buildings and facilities on 17 January, more than two months after it converted the school into military barracks and a detention centre.

Al-Israa University’s buildings, libraries, and laboratories were all destroyed during Israel’s 17 January attack—along with the school’s internal mosque—and their contents looted, reported Euro-Med Monitor. Also destroyed was the National Museum, which was located in Al-Israa and housed over 3,000 rare antiquities under licence from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities. University administration affirmed in an official statement that the antiquities are believed to have been stolen by the Israeli army.

The main headquarters of Al-Azhar University in Gaza City and its branch in the area of Al-Mughraqa were completely destroyed, stated the human rights group, due to repeated Israeli airstrikes on 11 October, 4 November, and 21 November of 2023. Al-Quds University was also subjected to major destruction, said Euro-Med Monitor; parts of the school’s headquarters and other buildings belonging to its branch in Gaza City were destroyed after the Israeli army stormed it on 15 November.

The Islamic University in Gaza City was completely destroyed during intense Israeli airstrikes on 11 October, with significant damage being caused to the University’s College of Science building, the Deanship of Community Service and Continuing Education building, and the College of Information Technology building. This includes damage to the buildings’ furnishings, labs, and equipment, explained Euro-Med Monitor. Its internal mosque was also destroyed, in violation of the rules of international law, which prohibit attacks against places of worship.

Under any other circumstances, contended the rights group, the targeting of the two aforementioned mosques would be proclaimed a violation of international humanitarian law, and a war crime, by the international community.

The Israeli army also launched several air raids on Al-Rabat College in Gaza City on 9 October, completely destroying its headquarters. Euro-Med Monitor emphasised that according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund, 70% of colleges and universities in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, costing Gaza’s education sector $720 million USD.

According to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Israel has been committing war crimes that constitute grave violations of international law. These crimes include the widespread and intentional destruction of buildings designated for educational, artistic, scientific, and religious purposes, as well as historical monuments.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor stressed that Israel’s actions fall within the framework of its public policies of making the Gaza Strip uninhabitable and expelling its Palestinian residents. Israel is accomplishing precisely this, said Euro-Med Monitor, by establishing a coercive atmosphere devoid of basic services and necessities for survival, i.e. by destroying people’s physical safety and psychological stability, which may ultimately force the Strip’s inhabitants to evacuate.