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International students killed in Israel as conflict intensifies

At least 11 international students have been killed in Israel as universities and governments work to repatriate foreign students in the country. 

International students have died as conflict between Israel and Hamas escalates. Photo: Unsplash.

Ten Nepali students were killed and four injured at an area near the Gaza strip

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a wave of unprecedented attacks, including sending fighters into Israel, on Saturday. The following day, Israel retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza.  

International students in Israel have been caught up in the conflict, many of them studying agriculture and working on farms as part of an Israeli work-study program aimed at students from developing countries, or on short-term exchanges as part of their university studies. 

Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that ten Nepali students were killed and four injured at an area near the Gaza strip. 

“In an attack by the Hamas group of Palestine at a place called Kibbutz Alumim in southern Israel, ten Nepalis were tragically killed,” the Ministry said in a statement, expressing “heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wishing for the speedy recovery of the injured”.

All those killed were reportedly agriculture students from Nepal’s Sudur Paschim University and were in Israel as part of the country’s agriculture internship, which allows foreign students to work at Israeli farms and study part-time. Some 265 Nepalis were in Israel as part of this program when the attacks began. 

Other Nepali students are reportedly stranded in a bunker and have appealed to their government for help. 

A Cambodian student has also died near the Gaza border, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed. Officials said they were working to return the body of the deceased man to his family as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Tanzanian embassy in Israel continues to search for two missing students. Ambassador Alex Kallua told the BBC the embassy had been in contact with the other Tanzanians in the country. 

There are approximately 450 Cambodians and 350 Tanzanians in Israel, the majority of them studying agriculture. It is unclear how many students in total were participating in agriculture internships in Israel at the time of the attacks. 

The Cambodian prime minister said three other students were rescued from conflict zones and are in a safe place, while the Philippines government confirmed that all Filipino agriculture students in Israel were “accounted for”.

Across the globe, universities and institutions have also been working to support their students participating in exchanges and international programs in Israel. 

New York University, which has an academic centre in Tel Aviv, said all of its students are no longer in Israel. 

“When the fighting started, we quickly began to account for all the students”

“Coincidentally, the students at our NYU Tel Aviv site were scheduled to leave this past weekend on a long-planned trip to Abu Dhabi,” said John Beckman, NYU spokesperson. 

“Their flight was a little delayed, but they did make it out yesterday,” he said. 

“When the fighting started, we quickly began to account for all the students and staff, and I am glad to report that we were able to rapidly ascertain that they were all unharmed, safe, and well.” 

“We’ve been in touch with the families to let them know, and offered services and support to all the students. They are at our campus in Abu Dhabi (NYU Abu Dhabi), where we can continue to offer support as needed.”

Boston’s Northeastern University said it was working to evacuate its three students on exchange in Israel. Some major airlines, including American Airlines, have temporarily halted flights into and out of the country.

“Northeastern’s global security operation has been in contact with our students in Israel who are there on co-op,” said a Northeastern spokesperson.

“We provided resources and assistance and are helping them evacuate the country. They are all safe.”

Melissa Torres, president and CEO of the Forum of Education Abroad, said the group’s members who have students in Israel are “focused on making certain any students, staff, and faculty on the ground in Israel are safe and accounted for”.

“As with any conflict that escalates to war, all Americans who are located in the region or who are concerned about loved ones are advised to contact the US State Department for the most up to date information and advice,” she said.

“Undoubtedly, any faculty-led programs that may be planned for later this year or education abroad programs planned for the Spring 2024 semester, will be impacted, especially if the war continues.”

Israel’s universities have delayed the start of the autumn semester by a week in light of the conflict. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem confirmed it would close its campus buildings in areas considered to be less safe and said leadership would convene daily to make decisions “in response to the evolving situation”. 

“Our utmost priority lies in ensuring the safety and well-being of our University community,” the university said in a statement

“Many among us are facing significant personal challenges, with some serving in reserve duty, others having family members engaged in combat, or having close friends and loved ones directly affected by the ongoing conflict.

“Special programs, including mechinot [pre-army education] and initiatives for international students, are already underway, and examinations are progressing as scheduled,” it added. 

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