With international students among the hundreds killed and injured in escalating violence since the attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday 7 October, governments are concerned about the safety of their citizens, including students in both Gaza and Israel.
Ten undergraduate students from Nepal were among those killed in the attacks by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Israel on Saturday. Four other Nepali students were injured from the group of 17 Nepali students at Kibbutz Alumim, an area near the Gaza Strip in southern Israel. Another two students from the group were uninjured.
The final semester students from Nepal’s Far Western University (Sudurpaschim University) were doing field work in the Sedot Negev Agriculture Training Center in Israel, just 17 km from the Gaza Strip, as a part of their university programme when they came under attack. Others at the centre included students from Cambodia.
“Ten students have lost their lives in the attack while one is still missing. Four of the injured are receiving treatment,” said Kanta Rizal, Nepal’s ambassador in Tel Aviv.
A friend of the deceased, Louish Rijal, a student at the training centre, said four of his friends were killed in the grenade attack and six others were shot by the Hamas militants. “I was in regular touch with them. First they were attacked with grenades and then some militants entered their bunker and shot them,” Rijal told University World News. “Most of them died of excessive bleeding. If there was timely treatment, they could have been saved.”
“Unfortunately, we have suffered a huge loss. We have never thought of such a tragedy,” Dr Amma Raj Joshi, vice-chancellor of Far Western University, told University World News. Joshi said the university had been “very encouraged” to be able to send the students to Israel, hoping they could learn about the use of technology in agriculture, considered to be excellent in Israel, while also earning some money.
“Fieldwork is necessary in the last semester before graduation. The students had gone to Israel to gain firsthand experience in the field. They would have graduated after presenting their report of their work,” Joshi said.
Plea to shift students to safer place
The university has urged the Nepal’s Office of the Prime Minister, Home Ministry, Education Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Nepali Embassy in Israel to shift the students to a safer location.
The Nepali government also announced that it would provide NPR1 million (US$7,500) to the family of each of the deceased. Minister for Communications and Information Technology Rekha Sharma, also a government spokesperson, told the media: “The government will repatriate those who wish to return.”
The Israeli army by Monday had secured the area around the Sedot Negev Agriculture Training Center, according to official sources in Tel Aviv.
As many as 49 students from Far Western University, in Nepal’s Chitwan region, had gone to Israel for an 11 month programme as part of their university practical work requirement. A total of 265 Nepali students from the eighth semester, including those from Far Western University, are studying in different Israeli institutions under the ‘Learn and Earn’ programme supported by the government of Israel.
Of those, 119 are from Agriculture and Forestry University and 97 from Nepal’s Tribhuvan University. Agriculture and Forestry University students are enrolled at Ramat Negev International Training Centre for Advanced Agriculture and those from Tribhuvan University are at Kinneret College.
The Israeli embassy in Kathmandu had facilitated enrolment of Nepali students in different institutions. Tribhuvan University has been sending its students for practical work for several years, but it was the first cohort from Far Western University.
Hanan Goder, Israeli ambassador to Nepal, said his embassy had taken the initiative to send Nepali students for training so that they could bring skills back home and contribute to Nepal’s agriculture sector. “Learn and Earn is a part of mutual cooperation between the two countries,” said Goder.