Students in Ireland and Switzerland join Gaza protest wave

DUBLIN (Reuters) -Students at Trinity College Dublin and Lausanne University in Switzerland have staged occupations to protest against Israel's war in Gaza, joining a wave of demonstrations sweeping U.S. campuses.

In Dublin, students built an encampment on Friday that forced the university to restrict campus access on Saturday and close the Book of Kells exhibition, one of Ireland's top tourist attractions.

The camp was set up after the students' union said it had been fined 214,000 euros ($230,000) by the university for losses caused by protests in recent months, not exclusively over Gaza. The protesters were demanding that Trinity cut academic ties with Israel and divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Students' union president Laszlo Molnarfia posted a photograph of benches piled up at the entrance to the building housing the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks in about 800 AD.

Trinity College said it had restricted access to students, staff and residents to ensure safety, and that the exhibition would be closed on Saturday.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s seven-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

Pro-Palestinian protests have also been held at universities in Australia and Canada.

In Lausanne, around 100 students occupied a building to back demands including an end to scientific cooperation with Israel.

"Palestinians have been dying for over 200 days, but we're not being heard," one protester told Swiss television on Saturday.

"Now there's a global movement to get governments to take action, but it's not happening. That's why we want to get universities involved now."

The university said the occupation could continue until Monday provided it did not disrupt work on campus.

"We universities are not called upon to take political stands," the university's rector, Frederic Herman, told RTS radio.Last week, the head of Trinity College, Linda Doyle, said it was reviewing its investments but that it was for individual academics to decide whether to work with Israeli institutions.

($1 = 0.9295 euros)

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin and Paul Arnold in Zurich; editing by Jason Neely and Kevin Liffey)