US campus protests: Rival Gaza protest groups clash at UCLA

US campus protests: Rival Gaza protest groups clash at UCLA

US campus protests: Rival Gaza protest groups clash at UCLA

Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel protesters have clashed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as demonstrations over the war in Gaza continue across US campuses.

Nationwide rallies - during which there have been hundreds of arrests - showed no sign of stopping over the weekend.

At UCLA "physical altercations broke out" after a barrier separating the two sides was breached, an official said.

The White House has insisted that demonstrations must remain peaceful.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told ABC that the US government respects the right of protesters demonstrating over the Israel-Gaza war.

But he condemned antisemitic incidents that have been reported, as well as "all the hate speech and the threats of violence out there".

At UCLA, a pro-Palestinian encampment has grown in size in recent days, as has a group of pro-Israeli counter-protesters.

The Israeli American Council (IAC) organised the counter-protest. It recently said it had "profound concern" over the antisemitism reported elsewhere, including at Columbia University in New York City.

Many pro-Palestinian protesters have sought to distance themselves from antisemitic incidents and in some cases they have blamed outside agitators.

The two groups at UCLA remained peaceful until Sunday, Reuters news agency reported, when campus police with batons separated them as they pushed and shoved each other, and traded punches.

It was not immediately clear which group broke through the barrier between them.

"We are heartbroken about the violence that broke out," the university said, adding that additional security measures had been introduced.

Tensions flared at US universities after the 7 October Hamas attack, in which about 1,200 people were killed in Israel, and the retaliatory Israeli military assault that has killed more than 34,000 people in Gaza.

In the last fortnight, a nationwide uprising has emerged which university officials and law enforcement have struggled to contain. They have blamed outside groups for infiltrating the demos.

The movement seems to have been emboldened by the arrest of more than 100 protesters at Columbia University after police were called to clear an encampment.

Hundreds of people have since been arrested in locations across the US - many of whom had pitched their own tents on university grounds.

The protests have also spread to Canada, with a pro-Palestinian camp of about 20 tents now installed in the grounds of Montreal's McGill University.

Activists in both countries are demanding a ceasefire in the conflict, and that their universities - many with massive endowments - cut their financial ties, or divest, from Israel.

They say that companies doing business in or with the nation of Israel are complicit in its ongoing war on Gaza - and so are institutions that invest in those companies.