Pro-Palestine students in Durham are occupying a green near the cathedral and castle in solidarity with those in Gaza.  

On the warmest weekend of the year so far, students are sleeping under the stars, in Durham's freshly created "liberated zone". 

The encampment was established early yesterday morning (Friday, May 10), and follows months of protests, demands, and open letters. 

It mirrors similar campus protest movements across the globe, having spread from Columbia to Cambridge, Amsterdam, Milan, and now the North East. 

From their colourful tents, protestors have demanded that Durham University cut ties with other organisations, such as Barclays Bank, that they believe are complicit in the ongoing violence. 

They are also asking the University to ensure that "freedom of speech is protected" and "all ties are cut with Israel". They added that they want the University to stop "advertising arms industry jobs", and to "disclose investments and divest from weapons." 

Students have alleged that jobs in the arms industry, such as roles at Leonardo, a manufacturer of defence and security systems used by Israel in the war, have been advertised on internal university jobs boards. 

Though clashes with authority and arrests have become synonymous with recent pro-Palestine student movements, the students on Palace Green seem devoutly peaceful, with protest leaders spending their days in the library, revising for their upcoming summer exams. 

Students at the encampment, of which there are estimated to be around 15 to 20, are hesitant to speak to the media. Our reporter is pointed to only one student who is willing to go on the record, though they preferred to remain nameless. 

The second-year undergraduate, from St Aidan's College, said: "Our university is increasingly becoming complicity in the atrocities in Gaza, and we have exhausted all other ways to speak to them, without taking direct action, but we're at the point where we are just being ignored. 

"This is our exam time, we don't want to be sat out in the sun 24 hours a day, and looking towards next week it's going to be absolutely pouring down with rain.

"But, we feel as though the university are just not willing to engage. This is a huge, well-respected organisation. It's one of the top universities in the county, why haven't disclosed investments and divested this yet?"

The students also feel as though the action taken has been "particularly punitive to Palestinian students and others speaking out."

But the University has said that "from the outset of events in the Middle East our priority has been to support all students and staff and our wider community, to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing and to do everything we can to ensure good community relations and the cohesion of our diverse global community."

"We have continually expressed distress and mounting concern at the appalling and huge number of civilian casualties and humanitarian suffering experienced by the people of Gaza, the appalling attacks on Israel and the plight of Israeli hostages."

They maintain that they have "provided direct and bespoke support to all students affected, including our Palestinian and Jewish students."

The university added: "We are committed to consistently and robustly upholding freedom of speech within the law, which includes the right of students and staff to protest safely and respectfully, as set out in the University’s Code of Practice."

Sol Gamsu, the president of Durham's UCU branch, and a geography and sociology researcher, also attended the protests. 

He said: "I'm here to show support from the union branch. We have passed a motion in solidarity with the suffering in Gaza, calling for a ceasefire, last term. 

Though some critics of the pro-Palestine campus movement have alleged that students have been "swept up in the romance" of direct action protesting, this has been disputed both by students and by Mr Gamsu. 

He said: "I think there's been sustained and sophisticated political understanding by students on campus for a long time, and I think it's a continuation of that. There's a long history of Palestinian solidarity work at Durham University. 

"There are several students here - one recently graduated and one current student - who are fundraising to try and get their families out of Gaza. 

"So, I think it would be unfair to say that the encampment here is not serious in its aims, and the politics of the young people here."

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When asked how likely he thought it would be that any negotiations took place, Sol said: "I think we'll see."

"I'd hope they'll listen to students and the strength of feeling that there is. The university is not an apolitical space, it took a very clear stance on Ukraine, but the same has not been true for the ongoing destruction of Gaza."

In a statement released on its website, Durham University said: "As a University, we express our deepest hope that a way will be found for a peaceful resolution to the conflict as soon as possible. We also hope for the end of violence and the safe return of the remaining hostages."