OTTAWA, CANADA - A group of students at McGill University have spent more than three weeks on hunger strike in an effort to force the Canadian college to divest from “companies supporting the Israeli military”.

The move follows months of protests and sit-ins at McGill and at universities around the world, as students and faculty members have protested against Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

Documents on McGill’s website show that it held investments in companies including Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor which has sold fighter jets to Israel, and Safran, a French air and defense company.

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“The university of McGill has left us no choice because they’ve been ignoring the peaceful protests, the actions that have been taken by students and student groups on campus,” said Rania Amine, an undergraduate student at McGill who on Friday marked her 33rd day on hunger strike.

“McGill has ultimately pushed us to take this extreme form of action and put our bodies and our health and our lives on the line to make them know that it is absolutely unacceptable that they use our tuition money to invest in this way.”

The students are calling for McGill, one of the most prestigious universities in Canada, to divest about $20m from various companies.

Amine said the McGill administration had acknowledged the strike, and agreed to a public forum on the issue, before cancelling the meeting. The school proposed a private meeting in early March, the students said, which was turned down.

Chadi, an undergraduate student who asked that his last name not be published, said Friday was his 21st day of continuous hunger strike.

“All of this stops when McGill divests,” Chadi said.

“We’re hunger striking for divestment and we’re in it for the long haul. We’ve already proved we’re in it for the long haul just by the sheer number of days we’ve done this.”

McGill on Friday issued a statement saying it is “concerned about the well-being of the students participating in this initative”.

“McGill repects the right to free speech and free assembly, within the limits of university policy and the law,” the statement added. “We … have repeatedly offered to meet with [the student protesters] directly. Though they have so far declined, this offer still stands.

“We have clearly communicated the procedures available for expressing concern about the university’s investment holdings, or for advocating policy changes. These students have chosen a different approach; our hope is that they will understand that university policies will not be determined in this way before their well-being is affected. We urge them to make choices that prioritize their health.”

In February, McGill said it would divest from companies listed in the Carbon Underground 200, a list of the top 100 coal and the top 100 oil and gas publicly-traded reserve holders, following a years-long campaign by students and faculty members.