Hamas beat out political rival Fatah in a Palestinian student council election held Wednesday at the top West Bank university, indicating growing support for the Islamist terror group among young Palestinians.
In a surprise upset, Islamic Wafaa’ bloc, Hamas’s student faction, gained 26 out of 51 seats in the Birzeit University student council elections, while Fatah’s Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc obtained 19 seats.
The election results mark a dramatic turn in the school’s political alliances.
In last year’s vote, the Fatah bloc won 23 seats while the Islamic Wafaa’ bloc received 20, according to a school press release.
Birzeit President Khalil Hindi said the elections “took place in a peaceful and democratic atmosphere that reflected students’ sense of responsibility toward their university.”
Birzeit is considered the best university in the West Bank, and it has long been a center of political activism.
Last year, Israeli journalist Amira Hass was banned from an academic conference hosted by the school, after two professors told her there is a law in the university that Israelis cannot enter.
While the school later expressed regret over the incident, some student activists maintained support for the action and demanded the school rescind its apology.
In 2013, protesters angry over British policies in the Middle East blocked the British consul general from entering the campus and forced him to cancel his planned speech.
AP contributed to this report.