The newly-elected 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 to students, saying Palestinians had suffered "apartheid, siege, illegal occupation and collective punishment" during the Israel-Gaza war.

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

Ms Maris, a former student at the university who joined as an undergraduate student of English and Philosophy in 2017, was elected rector on October 13. 

In a statement to the Telegraph, she denied accusations that her message to students was anti-Semitic and said her use of the terms genocide and apartheid were "supported by numerous human rights organizations".

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In response to her comments, a senior leadership team at the University of St Andrews said that while the university is “committed to the principles and practices of freedom of speech and freedom of expression”, there is “no place in St Andrews for antisemitism, Islamophobia, or racism of any kind”.

A statement, published on the university's website, 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 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.

The Herald: The University of St AndrewsThe University of St Andrews

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

Hundreds of students have called for Ms Maris to apologize or resign from her role, insisting that her comments "will only bring division and hatred".

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

"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."