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University protests over the Gaza war spread to major universities around the world

Protests over the Gaza war are emerging at major universities around the world, including in France and Australia, although at a slower pace compared to the United States, where demonstrations at about 40 campuses have sometimes turned into clashes with the police and mass arrests.

Paris police entered France’s prestigious Sciences Po University on May 3 and expelled many of the dozens of student activists who had occupied its buildings in protest against Israel’s conduct in its war against the Hamas militant group in Gaza.

France is home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel and the United States, and the largest Muslim community in Europe.

Unlike some U.S. college campuses, the French protests have been peaceful and there were no signs of violence as students were removed from buildings.

Sciences Po has become the epicenter of French student protests over the war and academic ties to Israel, which have spread throughout France.

The university was closed on May 3, with a strong police presence around its main building.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s office said student protesters had been evacuated from 23 higher education institutions across the country on May 2.

Sciences Po Lyon, an unaffiliated university in France’s third-largest city, and the Lille journalism school were also blocked by protesting students on May 3, images broadcast by French news channels showed.

Sciences Po director Jean Basseres on May 2 rejected protesters’ demands to review his relations with Israeli universities, prompting protesters to continue their movement and at least one person going on hunger strike, according to a student who spoke on behalf of the protesters.

The war in Gaza began after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7 that killed 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel estimates that 129 hostages captured by militants during their attack remain in Gaza. The Israeli military says it believes 34 of them are dead.

Israel’s relentless retaliatory offensive against Gaza has killed at least 34,596 people in the Palestinian territory, mostly women and children, according to the besieged Hamas-run enclave’s Health Ministry.

Outside Sorbonne University, a few hundred meters from Sciences Po in central Paris, members of the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) were setting up a “dialogue table” on May 3.

“We want to show that it is not true that we cannot talk about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” UEJF president Samuel Lejoyeux told radio station Radio J.

“To achieve this, we must put aside those who point out that Jewish students are complicit in the genocide,” he added.