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War on Gaza: Pro-Palestine students occupy university campuses in UK

Occupation of UK universities comes as US riot police violently evict student encampments at several campuses
Pro-Palestine students set up an encampment in protest at the University of Manchester's ties to companies supplying arms to Israel (Supplied)

Pro-Palestine students at campuses across the UK have set up encampments demanding that their academic institutions divest from companies involved in the arms trade to Israel.

Students at several institutions, including the universities of Manchester, Bristol and Leeds, are taking part in a protest movement in response to Israel's devastating war on Gaza.

The conflict has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians so far, with a further 10,000 people believed dead and buried under the rubble.

Women and children make up the vast majority of those killed by Israel.

The besieged strip's remaining population face starvation, with limited food supplies as a result of Israel's blockade on food and aid entering the territory.

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Similar protests have taken place at campuses across the US and in France, with authorities in both countries deploying riot police to violently evict those taking part.

At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) late on Tuesday, a pro-Israel mob armed with sticks and poles attacked pro-Palestinian students in an attempt to destroy their makeshift student encampment.

Witnesses complained that police appeared to do nothing to rein in the attackers.

At New York City's Columbia University, riot police evicted students from the Hamilton Hall, which had been occupied by pro-Palestine students.

'Prolonging suffering'

The students' key demand is that their institutions end investments in companies that supply arms to Israel, or are involved in business in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Students also want their institutions to end affiliations with Israeli universities, which they say are complicit in the plight of the Palestinians.

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In a comment sent to Middle East Eye, Hala, a PhD student taking part in the protests at the University of Manchester, said: "We will not allow [ourselves to be turned into] accomplices in crimes through the university’s partnerships with companies like BAE Systems, and Israeli academic institutions like Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which are built on stolen land."

Hala added: "As a PhD student, but most importantly as a Palestinian, I have a duty to take action against those enabling and prolonging the suffering of our people in Gaza and the whole of Palestine.

"The students have set the tone for what solidarity with Palestine means and the role of students in cutting the murderous chains from Manchester to Gaza."

On Wednesday, the London-based International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) said it wrote to 82 British institutions, warning that university officers could have committed a criminal offence if their institutions had profited from investments linked to weapons that have been used in the commission of a war crime.

In a statement, ICJP's senior legal officer, Dania Abul Haj, said that companies including Elbit Systems, Caterpillar and BAE Systems, which British universities have invested in, were potentially complicit in Israel's assault on Gaza and had supplied equipment used in other Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians.

Israel currently faces genocide charges at the International Court of Justice, after South Africa filed a case in late December.

Its leaders could also potentially be issued with arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court.

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