Hebron university reopens cautiously

January 10, 1997

Hebron's Palestinian university has been allowed to open for the first time in almost a year.

As Israel's coalition government continued its cautious moves towards a partial withdrawal from the city, the Palestinian-run university was closed for ten months by the Israeli authorities. It was given permission to open its doors again following a student occupation and demonstrations which began last month.

The campus was shut down in March 1996 because of Israeli concerns that it was being used for the planning of bomb and gun attacks and constituted a logistics base for terrorists who had carried out a wave of suicide bombings which killed 63 people. A limited number of lectures and seminars were run in private houses during the period of the closure.

Final permission from the Israeli army to allow classes to begin again was only granted following receipt of a letter in which the university administration committed to ensuring law and order on campus.

Pressure to reopen the institute had been growing for some weeks with demonstrations outside the campus gates and appeals from international organisations. Similar acts of goodwill were a feature of the peace process as it was pursued by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. However, the current administration has been reluctant to give ground so readily, leading to speculation that the move to reopen the campus has considerable significance.

News that the campus was to reopen brought students flooding into the university grounds in an impromptu demonstration of relief and optimism.

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