Belgian and Dutch students join Gaza protest wave

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By Anthony Deutsch and Charlotte Van Campenhout

AMSTERDAM/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Students in Belgium and the Netherlands occupied parts of the universities of Ghent and Amsterdam on Monday to protest against Israel's war in Gaza, joining international student protests that started on U.S. campuses.

At a campus of University of Amsterdam (UvA) in downtown Amsterdam, hundreds of students set up camp, pitching dozens of tents, playing in drum circles, and barricading access with wooden pallets.

The students want UvA and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) to stop their partnerships with Israel.

Painting a banner with a friend, 21-year-old political science student Layla said the protest was about solidarity.

"As an individual, I feel I can't do much ... so every little bit feels like I am at least doing something. Just being here shows we don't support the actions of the Dutch government", she said, declining to give her last name for fear of reprisals.

A UvA spokesperson said that while it condoned the protest during the day, it will not tolerate students staying the night.

"If students decide to spend the night, we will report it to the police", he said.

VU did not reply to a request for comment.

In neighbouring Belgium, some 100 students also occupied a part of Ghent's university UGent.

Footage shared on social media shows students surrounded by tents chanting "Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has to go", in one of UGent's buildings.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem - areas of historic Palestine which the Palestinians want for a state - in a 1967 war from Jordan and Egypt and has since built settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and steadily expanded them.

Several UGent employees and professors have signed an open letter supporting the protest and condemning the university's decision to continue research collaboration with Israel.

"UGent never gives permission to occupy buildings, but if this happen, a general framework of agreements applies", rector Rik Van de Walle said in a statement, adding that UGent subjects universities with which it collaborates to a human rights investigation.

The Ghent university students said the protest would last until Wednesday, May 8th.

(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout, Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Sharon Singleton and Aurora Ellis)