THE rector of the University of St Andrews is facing calls to resign after accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Stella Maris made the accusation in an email sent to students in which she said Palestinians had suffered “apartheid, siege, illegal occupation and collective punishment” during the Israel-Gaza war.

The email also provided a link to a website which carried a story claiming Israel “killed its own citizens” in the Hamas attack on October 7, the BBC reports.

She described how a vigil at the university was held earlier this month “following weeks of genocidal attacks by the Israeli government against Gaza”.

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She said: “We must continue to recognise and condemn acts that are internationally regarded as humanitarian and war crimes.

“It is also crucial to acknowledge and denounce the actions by Hamas that qualify as war crimes, notably the taking of hostages and deliberately targeting civilians, which I have and continue to do.”

Maris, a former English and Philosophy student at the university, was elected as rector on October 13.

In a statement to The Telegraph, she denied accusations her messages were antisemitic and said her use of the terms “genocide” and “apartheid” were “supported by numerous human rights organisations”.

“While people may disagree with the evidence presented, disagreement should be based on contradictory evidence, not simply because the notion is unpleasant," she said.

A senior leadership team at the University of St Andrews said it is “committed to the principles and practices of freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” and that there is “no place in St Andrews for antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism of any kind”.

A statement on the university’s website meanwhile read: “As the senior management team which leads the University of St Andrews, we are utterly dismayed that the rector, on this occasion, put her right to freedom of expression ahead of her duty to represent all students, and to be concerned for their welfare.

“We know that while some may have welcomed the message, others have been deeply offended and concerned by it.

“While every one of us shares a desire for peace and an end to hostilities in Israel and Gaza, we regret that her message, the language that it used, and some of the sources it cited have caused alarm, division, and harm in our community, and more widely.

“While she is accountable only to the student body whose interests she was elected to serve, we have, as individuals and as a group of senior leaders, asked her to reflect seriously on the evidence of the upset and fear she has caused, and to take such action as is necessary to restore confidence in her leadership amongst all students, and the wider community.

“We have reached out to the rector to offer such support and help as she may require to address these issues.”

Elsewhere, hundreds of students have called for Maris to either apologise or resign from her role.

In a letter, they said: “"We are concerned that your letter does not demonstrate equal care for Palestinian and Israeli lives.

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"What is truly unacceptable is that you do not care to mention, let alone demonstrate regard for, the two St Andrews students who were recently attacked because of their religion.

"Moreover, your letter does not show any appreciation for how your inflammatory and unfounded accusations of 'genocide,' 'apartheid,' and 'occupation' concerning the Jewish State will further embolden attacks and hatred against the Jewish students whom you were elected to care for.

"It is unacceptable for the rector to be selective in their responsibility to represent all students."