Peace activists get trapped in Ramallah

April 5, 2002

A British student was injured and up to 12 were trapped this week by Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The students were members of a group of activists who entered refugee camps in the town - from where several suicide bombers have hailed - to act as a human shield, in the hope that Israeli soldiers would be deterred from maltreating Palestinians by an international presence. Ramallah is also home to Birzeit University.

Four of the protesters were injured when Israeli troops opened fire on a peaceful protest. They included Aisa Kiuosue, thought to be a student at the University of Bradford.

A university spokeswoman said: "The student that we have is Aisa Kiyosue, a full-time research student in applied social studies. I cannot confirm that it's her but it looks pretty much like it."

Sarah Irving, a postgraduate student of politics at the University of Manchester, told the BBC that the shooting of the protesters had made them more determined. She said: "It has hardened their resolve to stay here and help protect Palestine in the knowledge that whatever happened to them is nothing compared to what others have had to go through."

A spokeswoman for the University of Sussex said that several of its students were in Ramallah.

She said: "We are concerned for their safety but we recognise that they are adults and able to make a choice as to how to spend their vacation. We know the Foreign Office is in touch and we feel sure that the consulate and the proper authorities will provide the necessary assistance in order to ensure their safe return."

The students are part of a loose coalition called the International Solidarity Movement for a Free Palestine.

Birzeit students and staff, including a music lecturer, are among the alleged activists held by the Israelis. Student dormitories and homes have been raided, their inhabitants arrested and property destroyed, according to the Friends of Birzeit University.

One house in Ramallah, occupied by six students, was raided, the students arrested, their books torn up and computers smashed. Twelve women students in a hostel were reported to be trapped with little food and no electricity or water three days after the raid.

Jane Lindsay, a United Kingdom-based counselling consultant, is one of those trapped.

A Birzeit statement called for an end to the "illegal occupation" of the Palestinian territories. "The university will continue to work towards a better future for the Palestinians by providing the best possible venues for higher education - based on liberal and open ideas and excellent academic opportunities."

The Vatican-sponsored Bethlehem University has been taken over by the Israelis.

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