On October 10, 2023, Israeli forces struck the Islamic University of Gaza with air to ground missiles, destroying several of the university’s buildings.
The decision occurred against the backdrop of a surprise Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that left over 1,000 Israelis and foreign nationals dead and more than 200 abducted, and the subsequent Israeli military bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of mid-November, has reportedly killed more than 11,000 Palestinians.
According to a Facebook post by the Islamic University, the missiles severely damaged several buildings, including those housing the Faculty of Information Technology, Community Service and Continuing Education, and Faculty of Sciences.
Israeli forces confirmed that the strike had taken place and released a video and press release, alleging that the university had close ties to Hamas and that it “was being used as a Hamas training camp for military intelligence operatives, as well as for the development and production of weapons “in order to raise funds for terrorism.”
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.