As the conflict between Israel and Palestine in Gaza continues, officials with the University of Texas International Office say they've been in close contact with graduate students and faculty conducting research in Israel.
“None of our students are anywhere near the Gaza Strip or the West Bank,” UT International Office risk analyst Erin Wolf says.
Wolf says six graduate students and a handful of faculty are doing research projects in Israel and that in addition to providing academic support, local universities are also giving them direction.
“I have a high level of confidence that they know what to do when they hear an air raid siren and that they are working closely with institutions that have been giving them a lot of guidance on what to do if there’s a missile strike close to them,” Wolf says.
UT has no plans to evacuate the students.
For the most part, Wolf says, email conversations she’s had with students and faculty in Israel demonstrate that the conflict is mostly confined to the West Bank and Gaza, and that their lives haven’t changed much since rocket fire between Israel and Hamas started on July 8.
“The students keep reporting that life is normal, they’re moving about the city, doing the things they want to do,” Wolf says. “Things haven’t really changed for them on the ground except that they are hearing the air raid sirens from time to time and they’re getting to put into practice the drills of what to do when you hear a siren.”
Wolf said the student and faculty research in Israel is set to wrap up in early August, and that if the fighting doesn’t escalate further, the university would like them to be able to complete their work.
Before members of the university leave on a research trip to a restricted region, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Richard Flores says they're required to fill out an application and go through and interview process. Four or five committee members weigh the academic reasons for travel with any security risks in the country.
"Students make pretty good academic claims to going there and Israel still is a very important part of the world, academically," Flores says.
If students do end up in a country at the same time a conflict intensifies, like is the case in Israel, Wolf says she gets counsel from federal departments including the U.S. State Department, which issues travel warnings and alerts, and the OSAC, the U.S.’s Overseas Security Advisory Council.
Wolf also says she's consulting with other U.S. universities who have students in Israel.