Israel-Hamas war: Students defy threat of suspension over Columbia University pro-Palestinian protest camp

Pro-Palestinian students in the US have defied an order by university officials to dismantle a tent camp set up to protest Israel's war in Gaza or face suspension.

College authorities at Columbia University in New York, sent students a letter on Monday demanding they sign a form agreeing to obey university policies until June 2025 or an earlier graduation, if they wish to finish the term in good standing.

If they failed to comply by 2pm, local time, the letter said, they would be suspended, pending further investigation and would not finish the term, the note said.

But those at the camp, now in its second week, voted nearly unanimously to stay put, NBC, Sky's US partner, said.

Around 2.45pm, protesters were seen marching on the quad and chanting "Disclose! Divest! We will not slow, we will not rest!'", NBC said.

More than 300 people and at least 120 tents remained.

Noting that exams are starting and graduation is coming up, the letter said: "We urge you to remove the encampment so that we do not deprive your fellow students, their families and friends of this momentous occasion."

Mahmoud Khalil, the protesters' lead negotiator, said university representatives began passing out the notices at the encampment shortly after 10am on Monday.

Demonstrators set up tents in the centre of the Columbia campus in one of the early pro-Palestinian protests over the Israel-Hamas war and its mounting death toll, but dissent quickly spread to other colleges, sparking clashes with police and arrests.

More than 900 people have been arrested across the US since police in New York removed a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at Columbia, arresting more than 100 demonstrators as they did so, on 18 April.

Clashes have continued, with about 275 people arrested on Saturday at various campuses including Indiana University at Bloomington, Arizona State University and Washington University in St Louis.

On Sunday night and Monday, people at an encampment near George Washington University in the US capital, protested, breaching and dismantling barriers.

Protesters at Yale University set up a new encampment with dozens of tents on Sunday afternoon, nearly a week after police arrested nearly 50 demonstrators and cleared a similar camp.

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More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israel-Hamas war, according to local health officials, who say about two-thirds of the dead are women and children.

Israel declared war on Hamas and unleashed an air and ground offensive in Gaza in response to the attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people in Israel and took another 250 hostages in its assault.