Protests over the war in Gaza have taken hold at a handful of elite US universities as officials scramble to defuse demonstrations.

Police moved to break up an encampment at New York University (NYU) on Monday night, making a number of arrests.

Dozens of students were arrested at Yale earlier in the day, while Columbia University cancelled in-person classes.

The White House has condemned antisemitic incidents that have marred some demonstrations.

Protests and heated debates about the Israel-Gaza war and free speech have rocked US campuses since the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October, which prompted Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

In the US, students on both sides say there has been a rise in both antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents since then.

When asked about the rallies on Monday, President Joe Biden said he condemned both “the antisemitic protests” as well as “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians”.

The protest movement was thrust into the spotlight last week after New York City police were called out to Columbia’s campus and arrested more than 100 demonstrators.

Rallies have spread since then. In addition to NYU and Yale, encampments have been set up at the University of California at Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Michigan, Emerson College and Tufts.

Like their peers, the NYU protesters are calling on their institution to disclose and divest its “finances and endowments from weapons manufacturers and companies with an interest in the Israeli occupation”.

One student, Alejandro Tanon told the AFP news agency that the US was at a “critical moment”, likening the protests to historic demonstrations over the Vietnam War and apartheid in South Africa.

“We stand with Palestine and we stand with the liberation of all people,” one protester told the BBC’s US partner CBS News.

Meanwhile, another who stood across the street with an Israeli flag said: “There’s one side here and one side of history. This is the right side here.”