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Hebron University Students Denied Graduation

Hebron University Students Denied Graduation

By Kathy Kamphoefner and Greg Rollins

The Israeli army denied more than one thousand Hebron University students from graduating today. After a day of negotiation with university officials, the Israeli Central Region Commander of the West Bank ordered the campus closed just before ceremonies were to begin.

On the morning of August 10 the Israeli civil administration extended the closure of Hebron University campus for the forth time this year. On the morning of August 11, CPT Hebron received an urgent call that soldiers were at the campus gate.

When CPTers Jerry Levin and Kristin Anderson arrived at the university, they saw a dozen soldiers and a jeep from the Israeli Civil Administration talking to members of the university's administration. The two CPTers learned that the university had planned to hold a graduation ceremony for the students finishing their studies in 2003, as well as students who finished their studies in the past three years. The university had planned the ceremony for three months and expected more than a thousand graduates and three thousand guests. Earlier in the week the university employees spent more than a day setting up the rented sound system and students held five rehearsals the day before the ceremony was to be held. Parents and family traveled from all over the West Bank to attend this ceremony.

Students waited on the street in front of the welded gates to the campus. Israeli soldiers from one jeep and Border police from two jeeps told the people they had ten minutes to go home or they would start shooting, but the people did not leave. Instead, the students donned their graduation gowns and gathered before the three jeeps. The graduating students sang and took pictures of each other in front of the jeeps. The soldiers and Border police revved their jeeps' engines and a couple times drove forward a few meters to keep the people back.

Eventually the soldiers and Border police left. Then the students forced open the front gates to the university and went onto the campus to hold their ceremony. When all the people had entered, an announcement was made that the ceremony was postponed. A while later people were asked to sit down for the university president's speech only to be told a few minutes later that everyone must evacuate the campus. According to Hebron University spokesperson Niam Daour, the army issued veiled threats. "They told us 'if you go ahead, we don't want blood, we don't want to injure your students.'" He reported that the army said they were "sorry but the decision comes from higher up. We know it is very difficult for you, but we have our orders."

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