Isra University’s destruction and IDF casualties: New tensions in Gaza conflict

Mitchell Plitnick, president of Rethinking Foreign Policy said of the bombing of Isra University "by definition... it was not a legitimate military target."

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Image Credit: Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APA images

The recent actions of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza, including the demolition of Israa University and the accidental death of IDF soldiers, have escalated the longstanding conflict. These events are drawing widespread international attention and condemnation, signaling a deepening crisis in the region.

Isra University in Gaza faced a devastating blow when the IDF detonated more than 300 mines within its campus. This aggressive action not only demolished an essential educational institution but also struck a severe blow to the cultural and academic life of the Palestinian community. The destruction of this university is seen by many as part of Israel’s broader campaign to dismantle Palestinian educational and cultural infrastructures.

In the aftermath, global criticism has surged, with rights advocates and international bodies denouncing Israel’s actions. Chris Hazzard, an Irish member of the UK Parliament, labeled the incident as ethnic cleansing, not self-defense. This perspective echoes a growing sentiment that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are part of a larger strategy of cultural genocide.

The international community’s response to the destruction of Isra University has been one of outright condemnation. Organizations like the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) have termed these actions as a blatant attempt at cultural genocide. The recent case filed by South Africa in the International Court of Justice against Israel includes the wiping out of Palestinian cultural landmarks, such as Isra University, as part of its complaint.

The destruction of Isra University represents a significant loss to Gaza’s cultural and educational fabric. The obliteration of such institutions is not only a physical loss but also a symbolic one, representing an attack on Palestinian identity and heritage. Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities lamented the loss, stressing the importance of preserving civilizational and cultural heritage, especially in times of conflict.

Before its destruction, Isra University was occupied by the IDF for about 70 days. During this period, the university was reportedly used as a military base, altering its purpose from an educational institution to a center for military operations. This occupation culminated in the planting and detonation of 315 mines, leading to the complete destruction of the university’s main building, its museum, a university hospital, and other facilities.

The academic community, both within and outside of Gaza, has reacted strongly to the destruction of Isra University. Birzeit University, located in the occupied West Bank, condemned the IDF’s actions, accusing Israel of stealing artifacts from Isra’s museum. This incident has been portrayed as part of Israel’s larger objective to make Gaza uninhabitable and continue its alleged genocide in the Gaza Strip.

In a tragic turn of events, at least 21 Israeli soldiers were killed when explosives planted by the IDF in two Gaza buildings detonated unexpectedly. The explosion, triggered by an attack on a nearby Israeli tank, led to the collapse of the structures, causing these casualties. Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesperson, acknowledged that the mines laid by Israeli forces likely caused the explosion.

This incident marks one of the deadliest days for Israeli forces since their latest assault on Gaza began. It underscores the risks and complexities of military operations in densely populated areas and raises questions about the IDF’s tactics in urban warfare.

The conflict in Gaza, when compared to other recent global conflicts, stands out for its high casualty rate and the intensity of military operations. Data compiled by the United Nations and academic projects like Cost of War reveal that more people are dying per day in Gaza than in conflicts in Iraq, Syria, or even in the early stages of the war in Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained a firm stance on the military operations in Gaza. Following the IDF explosion that killed Israeli soldiers, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of learning from the incident while vowing to continue the fight for “absolute victory.”

“We must draw the necessary lessons and do everything to preserve the lives of our warriors. In the name of our heroes, for the sake of our lives, we will not stop fighting until absolute victory,” stated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, indicating a continued commitment to military engagement in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s unwavering position and the continued support from the U.S. suggest a protracted conflict with no immediate end in sight. This stance has implications not only for Gaza but for the broader dynamics of peace and stability in the Middle East.

The international community, including analysts and advocacy groups, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Gaza. The latest incidents have only heightened these demands, with many hoping that the recent tragedy involving IDF soldiers will expedite peace efforts. However, the Israeli government’s continued military actions, coupled with support from key allies like the U.S., present significant challenges to these calls for peace.

Mitchell Plitnick, president of Rethinking Foreign Policy said of the bombing of Isra University “by definition… it was not a legitimate military target.”

“Israel would have to have full control to plant so many mines,” said Plitnick. “This is a clear example of a war crime and destruction for the fun of it.”

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