Birzeit student union president Omar Kiswani arrested on campus

Birzeit student union president Omar Kiswani arrested on campus

Undercover Israeli security personnel detain a Palestinian protester during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel [File: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters]

Israeli forces have arrested Omar Kiswani, president of the student council at Birzeit University, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

Online video footage showed six men dressed in civilian clothing pinning Kiswani to the ground, kicking and beating him while a few of them fired gunshots on campus.

According to Birzeit University, the group attacked Kiswani, 24, in front of the student council building.

Another armed Israeli unit had detained the university’s guards in a room and “proceeded to use their firearms against the students while providing cover for the kidnapping operation”.

“They were carrying guns inside their bags, they disguised as students and started shooting in broad daylight,” said Sondos Hamad, coordinator of the Right to Education campaign.

“They took him to the western gate of the university where Israeli military forces were waiting for him with their jeeps. We don’t know where he is now.”

An Israeli spokesperson did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

This is the second time Kiswani has been arrested. Previously, he spent a year in an Israeli jail due to his participation in a Hamas-affiliated group on campus.

According to the Right to Education campaign, arrests of Palestinian students on campus in the occupied West Bank are common.

“We believe his arrest has to do with his status as student president,” Hamad said. “They tried to arrest him last week as well but he ran away,” he added.

Hamad explained that a similar scenario occurred at the beginning of 2017 when two students were arrested at the campus gate by Israeli soldiers disguised as civilians.


There are currently more than 60 students from Birzeit University imprisoned in Israeli jails.

Since 2014, more than ten student council representatives have been arrested by Israeli forces, out of which seven were presidents of the student union at the time of arrest.

Since US President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, Birzeit University has noted an increase in student arrests.

Students at Birzeit University told Al Jazeera that affiliation with any political bloc, whether it is Fatah or Hamas, is prohibited by Israeli military orders.

Hamad explained that the reason behind student arrests is because the “Israeli occupation feels threatened by student leaders”.

“The student council in Palestine are leaders of the student political blocs,” Hamad said.

“Birzeit is like any university in the world. Students are given space to express themselves and they have the right to belong to any political bloc but unfortunately, the Israeli occupation always violates our right to education and freedom of expression,” Hamad added.