On September 27, 2021, Israeli soldiers at the Beit El DCO military checkpoint in El-Bireh city fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into a crowd of Birzeit University students protesting the Israeli army’s killing of five Palestinians on September 26, causing clashes to break out between the two groups.
Prior to the incident, hundreds of students had gathered on Birzeit’s campus for a rally condemning the deaths, after which they marched to the checkpoint to protest and some students reportedly set tires on fire. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint began to fire tear gas and rubber bullets “arbitrarily” into the crowd of students. In response to the soldiers’s conduct, some students reportedly threw rocks. Dozens of students suffered respiratory issues and a journalist sustained a minor injury after being struck in the leg by a rubber bullet.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by clashes between state security forces and student protesters. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain security and safety, they must also refrain from the disproportionate use of force and ensure that their actions are not intended to retaliate against student expression and do not endanger civilians. Likewise, while students have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they are obligated to exercise those rights peacefully and should refrain from engaging in violence and vandalism. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the disproportionate use of violent force to chill or restrict students’ expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).