SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 22, 2024

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Al-Aqsa University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 22, 2024, Israeli forces shelled Al-Aqsa University, located in Gaza city.

At the time of the attack, the university was functioning as a shelter for displaced persons.

The shelling took place three and a half months after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023; an attack during which over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed and more than 200 abducted. As of early- February 2024, the Israeli military’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip has reportedly killed more than 27,000 Palestinians. Israeli munitions have damaged or destroyed nearly all of Gaza’s higher education institutions, often in multiple attacks. These include: the Islamic University of Gaza (see report), the University College of Applied Sciences (see report), Al-Azhar University (see report), the University College of Applied Sciences and Technology (see report), the Palestine Technical College (see report), Al-Quds Open University (see report), and Al-Israa University (see report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeting of university facilities in armed conflict. Parties to a conflict may only attack legitimate military targets; where a party suspects that a civilian facility—such as a university building—is being used for military purposes, that party has a duty to take every action practicable to verify that this suspicion is correct before initiating an attack. In the event of such an attack, parties must take all practicable precautions to avoid or minimize damage to civilian facilities. Likewise, parties must refrain from using higher education facilities for military purposes during active conflict. Further, parties must refrain from launching attacks which may be expected to cause disproportionate damage to civilian facilities.