Gaza’s Science and Tech Experts Targeted in Assaults

    FeaturesGaza’s Science and Tech Experts Targeted in Assaults
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    Gaza’s Science and Tech Experts Targeted in Assaults

    IT experts, computer engineers, scientists targeted in ongoing attacks in Gaza. The rebuilding of the infrastructure ‘could take more than 20 years’.

    Amr Rageh

    Palestinian academics have condemned what they say is the systematic targeting of scientists, IT experts and centres of education in Gaza, during the six-month-long assault on the enclave.

    Analysis of attacks by Israeli forces points to a deliberate strategy of striking Gaza’s technological and scientific capabilities, in order to hinder research and innovation and eliminate scientific, intellectual and societal progress there, Palestinian observers told SciDev.Net.

    Khaled Qalalwa, head of international cooperation and investment at the Higher Council for Innovation and Excellence in Palestine, said: “The occupation’s goal is clear, which is to return the way of life in Gaza to what it was before the Stone Age, transform it into a place unfit for living, and obstruct the means of its reconstruction, in order to achieve a more comprehensive goal… the displacement of its people.”

    Gaza’s developing technology sector has gained ground in the jobs market and successfully cooperated with a number of international companies, according to Qalalwa.

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    “This market includes a large number of independent technology experts, which means that its destruction will inevitably affect the Palestinian economy,” he added.

    He believes it may take more than 20 years to rebuild the technology sector in Gaza, once hostilities have ceased.

    A report published last month by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor says the Israeli army has targeted dozens of IT experts, computer engineers and programmers, including some of the most highly regarded in their fields since 7 October last year, as part of the ongoing assault on Gaza.

    As well as individual assassinations, the headquarters of information and communications technology companies have come under attack, leading to their complete or partial destruction, according to the Monitor.

    The report indicated that six business incubators had gone out of service, while “all technology centres have stopped working”.

    Muhammad Bani Odeh, a Palestinian expert in the field of digital transformation, says Gaza’s technical infrastructure has been severely dented, but “it is difficult to monitor the true extent of the damage due to the absence of accurate survey efforts”.

    He says the technical field contributes to about four per cent of Gaza’s gross domestic product and provides services to the rest of Palestine, as well as to several foreign countries.

    “The destruction will also lead to an increase in unemployment in the sector, which already suffers from high unemployment rates,” he told SciDev.Net.

    Youssef Sabbah, an associate professor of information technology at Al-Quds Open University, Ramallah, and a digital transformation consultant, believes that technical sectors are the only hope for progress in Gaza – and Palestine as a whole – under the current circumstances.

    “Technology applications only require a computer and a person with intelligence and practical abilities,” he explained. “Once these basic tools are available, an individual can achieve good material gains, even if he lives in a tin house.”

    Sabbah believes that targeting technical competencies is one of the priorities of the Israeli forces, because while destroyed buildings and institutions can ultimately be rebuilt, technical and other vital sectors cannot operate in the absence of trained professionals.

    Israeli forces have killed 94 university professors, as well as hundreds of teachers and thousands of students, according to another report by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

    They also destroyed every university in the Gaza Strip, according to the report, including Al-Israa University, the Islamic University of Gaza, and branches of the Al-Azhar University.

    According to analysis by the Arab Center Washington DC, Israel is guilty of “scholasticicide” – the intentional annihilation of educational infrastructure.

    It says the occupation’s attacks are part of a multi-objective plan that includes limiting societal development in Gaza, perpetuating the sector’s dependence on foreign aid, and obstructing scientific and intellectual progress.

    Marwan Ghanem, professor of hydrogeology at Birzeit University in Ramallah, told SciDev.Net: “The occupation aims to eliminate all educational hotspots in Gaza. Its forces have destroyed all educational platforms, even empty schools.”

    Ghanem believes that the primary goal of these operations is “to create a city that is uninhabitable, with the aim of displacing the people of Gaza”.

    He says Israel has targeted physics and chemistry experts, as well as those in the technology sector.

    SciDev.Net approached the Israeli Defence Ministry for comment, but none had been received by the time of publication.

    This piece has been sourced from SciDev.Net

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