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Tufts University student group faces criticism for commending the ‘creativity’ of Hamas militants

Rockets were fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.Fatima Shbair/Associated Press

Tufts University and the Anti-Defamation League have condemned a statement from a student group commending the “creativity” of Hamas fighters who carried out terrorist attacks Saturday that killed more than 1,000 Israelis, sparking a war that Israel’s prime minister has warned will be long and difficult.

On social media, the ADL’s New England chapter denounced the statement attributed to Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine, which said that footage “of liberation fighters from Gaza paragliding into occupied territory has especially shown the creativity necessary to take back stolen land.”

The ADL called those sentiments “obscene.”

“Tufts SJP applauding the ‘creativity’ of Hamas in perpetrating atrocities, including murdering babies, is obscene,” the ADL wrote.

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A Tufts spokesperson, Patrick Collins, also decried the group’s comments.

“We condemn the terrorism and atrocities that Hamas has carried out against Israel,” Collins said in a statement. “We strongly disagree with and denounce SJP’s statement and want to make clear that no student group speaks for the university.”

The SJP group didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday morning.

A similar controversy has unfolded at Harvard University,where President Claudine Gay on Tuesday released a statement condemning Hamas’s “terrorist atrocities,” after Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee, a student group, had said Saturday that it holds Israel “entirely responsible” for the bloodshed, asserting that Palestinians in Gaza for decades have been held captive in an “open-air prison.”

That statement, cosigned by about 30 other student groups, had drawn the ire of former Harvard President Larry Summers, who on Monday leveled harsh criticism at the Harvard administration for initially failing to condemn the remarks.

“The silence from Harvard’s leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student groups’ statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral towards acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel,” Summers, who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, posted on X.

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Later Monday, Gay and Harvard’s top deans released a statement lamenting “the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas that targeted citizens in Israel this weekend” and “the war in Israel and Gaza now under way.”

Some Jewish students found that response lacking, and on Tuesday, Gay issued another statement under her name alone.

She condemned the Hamas attack as terrorism, writing that “such inhumanity is abhorrent, whatever one’s individual views of the origins of longstanding conflicts in the region.”

“Let me also state, on this matter as on others, that while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership,” Gay wrote. “We will all be well served in such a difficult moment by rhetoric that aims to illuminate and not inflame. And I appeal to all of us in this community of learning to keep this in mind as our conversations continue.”

Israel has vowed unprecedented retaliation against the Hamas militant group ruling the Palestinian territory after its fighters stormed through the border fence and gunned down hundreds of Israelis in their homes, on the streets, and at an outdoor music festival.

The BBC quoted a witness in one kibbutz, an Israeli community along the Gaza border, who said Hamas fighters killed families, including babies, and were aiming “to kill everybody ... just normal citizens that want to take their breakfast and that’s all.”

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Some victims, the man said, were decapitated.

“They killed them and cut some of their heads, it’s a dreadful thing to see,” he told the BBC.

Israeli airstrikes Wednesday in the sealed off Gaza Strip raged on even though militants are holding an estimated 150 people captured from Israel — soldiers, men, women, children and older adults.

The war, which has already claimed at least 2,200 lives on both sides, is expected to escalate — and compound the misery of people living in Gaza, where basic necessities and electricity were already in short supply.

Material from the Associated Press and from prior Globe stories was used in this report. This breaking news story will be updated when more information is released.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.