On Saturday, the Israeli army fired tear gas at scores of students marching to Ofer prison, west of Ramallah. This was one of a series of demonstrations organised by Birzeit University students over recent weeks in solidarity with political prisoners detained by Israel.
The protests have been prompted by a number of new arrests and a recent wave of hunger strikes by detainees protesting administrative detention. On 25 September Samer Arbeed, 44 from Ramallah was violently arrested and subjected to torture while under interrogation. His case led to the Palestinian NGO Network and the Palestinian Human Rights Council issuing a statement on 1st October calling on the international community to pressure Israel to release Arbeed and investigate his torture.
Earlier last month, Israeli forces raided the home of Widad Barghouti, a lecturer in media at Birzeit University. She was abducted and held under administrative detention without charge. Professor Barghouti has since been released from prison but remains under house arrest, banned from returning to work at Birzeit, travel or posting on social media.
The demonstrations have brought together Palestinian students from across the Palestinian political spectrum. Speaking to Arabi Al-Jadeed at the demonstration this weekend, one Birzeit student representative explained the importance of the Palestinian student movement,
The youth and students have always spearheaded confrontation with the occupation and Birzeit University too, so we promise the prisoners we will play our part in mobilising the streets in the service of their just cause. The existence of prisoners certainly calls for more from us.
Palestinian students and academics are subject to routine harassment and arrests by the military occupation. Over 80 Birzeit University students are currently held in Israeli prisons. According to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit, Israeli forces arrested 18 Birzeit students during August and September alone.