U.S. colleges heighten security in light of Middle East tension

The University of South Florida is increasing its police presence following an empty bomb threat.

Columbia University followed suit, closing campus and increasing police presence around nearby religious institutions.

Some universities have increased their on-campus security due to rising tensions from Hamas’ recent attacks on Israel and pro-Palestinian campus activism.

The University of South Florida is beefing up its security force, The Independent reports, after a suspected bomb threat surfaced on social media. The threat appeared directed toward the campus Hillel building, which sponsors a Jewish student support organization.

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“Following an evacuation and search of the Tampa campus [Hillel] building,” The Independent writes, “authorities found nothing of concern.”

Nevertheless, the university stated that it would increase the police presence on campus.

Previous reporting by Campus Reform also covered the ensuing panic at a University of Florida Jewish prayer vigil earlier this month. That night, a student passed out and another individual asked for 911 to be called. A misunderstanding launched what the Jewish attendees believed to be a violent attack and a stampede subsequently took place.

Florida’s Rabbi Aharon Chaim Notik told Campus Reform at the time that the Jewish community in America feels especially threatened when anti-Semitic attacks are launched against Israel overseas.

Florida colleges aren’t alone. Columbia University also recognized a need for caution as students take sides. Consequently, the school decided to close down its campus to the public. “Tensions have risen around the city as supporters of each side stage protests and police investigate possible hate crimes,” The New York Times reports.

[RELATED: Rising fear of anti-Semitic attacks causes stampede at UF vigil for Israel]

The Times article did not allege any instances of physical violence against pro-Palestinians, but it identified one case of assault against an Israeli student.

New York law enforcement told the Times that patrols would increase around synagogues and mosques while Columbia said it would restrict access to campus for safety.

Campus Reform has contacted all parties named for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.