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Israel's calculated murder of Gazan scholar Dr Sufyan Tayeh

A calculated assassination: Science mourns Dr Sufyan Tayeh, Gaza's scholastic star
3 min read
04 December, 2023
Israel's systematic assault on Gaza has ripped the tree of knowledge from its foundations. The resumption of Israeli airstrikes has left thousands more dead, including one of the world's leading physicists and mathematicians, Dr Sufyan Tayeh.

On Saturday evening, sustained Israeli airstrikes on the Al-Falouja area of Jabalia in Northern Gaza killed one of the world's leading scientists, Dr Sufyan Tayeh alongside his family and scores of others, as announced by the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education. 

Dr Tayeh, the current head of the Islamic University in Gaza and a distinguished member of the theoretical physics and applied mathematics communities, was considered to be in the top 2% of science researchers worldwide in 2021. His death has been widely mourned by Palestinians across social media. 

Dr Sufyan Tayeh was born in Jabalia Refugee Camp in 1971 and studied theoretical physics and applied mathematics. In 2005, he was detained by Israeli authorities as he crossed the Rafah border to Egypt to complete his doctorate from Ain Shams University. Yet Israeli occupation and blockade wouldn't prevent the scientist from achieving various accolades.

He was recently appointed as UNESCO Chair for Physics and Space Sciences in Palestine and has been awarded the Abdul Hameed Shoman Award for Young Arab Scientists. Dr Tayeh's murder is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of the conflict on the academic and scientific community in Gaza. 

It's clear that Israel's systematic assault on Gaza not only targets educational institutions but also ruthlessly kills the intellectual pillars of the Palestinian community.

Dr Tayeh's assassination is a chilling testament to this; the university he called home, the Islamic University of Gaza, has also been reduced to rubble. 

The Islamic University of Gaza, once a beacon of enlightenment, reason and collaboration, now lies in ruins. The sprawling campus, which once housed dynamic debate, classrooms, and cutting-edge research facilities, has been reduced to ashes. Even the remnants of standing buildings are mere spectres of their former selves, stripped of form and feature. 

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The motivation of Israel's broader campaign of destruction goes beyond demolishing structures and people, it seeks to erase the very memory of intellectual endeavours.

By killing Dr Sufyan Tayeh and destroying the Islamic University of Gaza, Israel has sent a clear message: we want to extinguish the intellectual flames of curiosity, innovation, and intellectual growth in Gaza. 

As the world watches, some with horror others with indifference, the resilient spirit of the people of Gaza endures. The memory of Dr Sufyan Tayeh and the Islamic University of Gaza lives on in the hearts and minds who recognise the importance of preserving knowledge and upholding the legal intellectual pursuit against all odds. 

Eman Alhaj Ali is a Gazan-based journalist, writer, and translator from Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp

Follow her on X: @EmanAlhajAli1