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In December, the sad state of affairs for universities in Gaza culminated with the bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), destroying several buildings, amongst which research laboratories and a female dormitory. The university was established by the founder of Hamas and has graduated several Hamas leaders and officials over the years. Many believe the university was therefore specifically targeted.
The Islamic University of Gaza has a significant relevance in the region. Hosting over 20 000 students, it allows Palestinian studies from Gaza to pursue careers in higher education as they are, due to Israeli restrictions, unable to study in the West Bank or abroad. The blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed by Egypt and Israel, in June 2007, is said to have converted Gaza into a virtual prison. Many students, awarded scholarships for study abroad, are unable to leave the strip and others, already studying abroad, are prevented from returning to their homes. This has given rise to extended criticism and protest over the past years, prompting blockade-defying ships to reach Gaza in attempts to free scholars.
The withdrawal of Israeli troops, in the wake of the new US presidency, has reduced once again the global focus on the region, but the existing problems have all but disappeared. The world awaits the policy stance of the new American government in response to this enduring conflict.