News & Reports

Israeli Bombing Kills Top Palestinian Scientist and His Family

An Israeli airstrike on the Al-Faluja neighbourhood, north of Gaza City, on Saturday evening killed a top Palestinian scientist, Sofyan Taya, and his family, according to news reports.

Professor Taya was president of the Islamic University of Gaza and was Unesco’s chairman for astronomy, astrophysics and space science in Palestine.

According to Palestinian government reports, Israeli airstrikes and ground operations have killed more than 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza since October 7, and hundreds more in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The bombing of Al-Faluja and other areas of the Gaza Strip on Saturday followed the collapse of a weeklong truce that began on November 24.

Several Palestinian ministries and universities posted statements on social media mourning Professor Taya’s death.

Besides serving as president of the Islamic University of Gaza, Taya was a professor of theoretical physics in its Faculty of Science. He was born in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, graduated from its schools, and completed his bachelor’s degree in 1994. He worked as a lecturer at the university and started teaching after obtaining his master’s degree. In 2004, he began his Ph.D. studies, which he obtained in 2007. He was promoted to assistant professor, then professor in 2018.

Research Was Top Priority

Taya had a particular view of the role of his institution. In a video interview published by the university last year, he said: “I realised from the first moments I worked at the Islamic University that the university’s mission was neither teaching nor graduating generations, but rather three main activities: scientific research, community service, and teaching as a third task, not a primary one. The main task is scientific research.”

“After I finished my doctorate in 2007, I joined a research team in the physics department at the Islamic University,” he said. “This research team must have had the help of God Almighty because it enabled me to take my first steps in my scientific career.”

Taya’s academic record is full of achievement. He won the Abdul Hameed Shoman Award for Young Arab Scientists in 2012, and he  was ranked among the top  2 percent of researchers globally in 2021 in citation metrics compiled by the international publishing house Elsevier and Stanford University in the United States, several Palestinian academic institutions reported. He also contributed regularly to scientific studies published in prestigious journals.

‘A Great Palestinian Scholar’

In its “obituary of a great Palestinian scholar,” the Palestinian National Commission for Education, Culture and Science on Saturday said all scholars, researchers, academics, and humanity around the world should mourn Professor Taya.

The commission sent letters to Unesco and other international organisations, including the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation, and the Union of Arab Scientific Research Councils, urging them to denounce Israel’s destruction in Gaza.

The letters said organisations need to “make their voices heard, in the face of the occupation’s crimes in targeting Palestine’s scientific figures, scholars, and academics; the academic and educational institutions in Gaza, and all areas where Palestinian people are present, including schools, universities, cultural and artistic facilities, artists, poets and students, which completely disregards all international and humanitarian conventions and treaties.”

The commission also called on academic institutions and higher-education ministries across the globe to condemn “this heinous crime.” It released a statement saying: “The occupation aims to eliminate the academic structure, academic and scientific capabilities, and target Palestinians as individuals.”

According to his relatives’ social media accounts, Professor Taya was killed  with his father Abd al-Rahman Othman; his wife, Abeer; his sons, Dr. Osama and Abd al-Rahman; his daughters, Dr. Aseel, Israa and Lana; his married daughter Fadwa and her children; and his sister-in-law and her children.

Destroyed Homes, Hospitals

Professor Taya’s death coincided with the daily report of Palestine’s Ministry of Health on the effects of the Israeli invasion. “As of December 1 evening, over 15,000 people have been killed, including about 6,000 children and 4,000 women, in addition to more than 40,000 wounded,” it said.

The ministry reported that 20 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were out of service, while others were only operating partially after receiving some fuel supplies. However, those hospitals cannot provide all the treatment necessary because of bombing, overcrowding, power outages, and having to shelter thousands of displaced people.

Four hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip are only partially operational and are providing only limited services. Two hospitals provide dialysis services to kidney patients only. None of the hospitals in the north can perform surgery.

The Israeli bombing has killed more than 250 healthcare workers and destroyed 55 ambulances, the health ministry said.

Its report said that up to 1.8 million people in Gaza, or nearly 80 percent of the population, had been internally displaced. Obtaining an accurate count is challenging under wartime conditions.

 The report said nearly 1.1 million displaced people had been registered in UNRWA facilities in Gaza. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East) provides education, health care, relief and social services, and other assistance to nearly 6 million Palestinian refugees in Palestine and several bordering countries.

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