Fistfights and clashes broke out at Bir Zeit University on Ramallah Monday, as staff were prevented from entering the university building by students who are striking in protest of poor management by the university's administration.
Students locked the gates of the school's buildings and formed a human chain to prevent anyone from entering. Several staff tried anyway, and were roughed up by students. Among them was the head of the university's science faculty, who was badly injured when he tried to enter the building and students closed a door on his legs.
The strike has been going on for several weeks, but administrators decided that Monday was to be the official first day of school, raising the ire of students. According to rumors circulating among the students, the staff had arrived to “break” the strike, hence the violence. The arrival of the University president only exacerbated the situation, witnesses said.
Palestinian Authority police arrived on the scene as well, but did not intervene, allowing the students to continue blockading the building. After top PA police official Wissam Assal arrived, police began separating the groups, warning students that they were at risk of arrest.
Students have accused the administration of ruining the school, causing it to go bankrupt. As they blocked the entrance, students cursed at staff and administrators, accusing them of stealing university funds for their own use.
In a statement, university officials said that staff members had attempted to enter the building “as is their right, but were turned away violently by students, and in the end a faculty member was badly injured.” The university did not say if it would attempt to hold classes Tuesday.