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UK Palestine activists shut down Israeli weapons factory in Leicester

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Activists scale roof of the Elbeit Systems building in Leicester, the UK, posing a Palestinian Flag on May 19, 2021. (Photo by Palestine Action)

Pro-Palestinian activists and protesters have occupied and shut down an Israeli-owned weapons manufacturing plant in the city of Leicester, England, in an attempt to “disrupt production of arms and military technology," arguing the drones manufactured there are being used in attacks against the Gaza Strip.

“Palestine Action” activist group, along with protesters, on Wednesday entered a factory operated by UAV Tactical Systems, a subsidiary of the Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems, and proceeded to shut down the company’s operations.

The protesters argued that the unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured in the facility are being used in indiscriminate attacks against the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip.

Protesters chanted slogans criticizing Israeli violence against Palestinians, directing the anger not only at the Israelis but also at the British government over what the activists say is a “genocide” of Palestinians.

“All the politicians, especially [UK PM] Boris Johnson, who is taking the Palestinian genocide lightly, are complicit,” said Ferhat Ulusu, one of the activists who scaled the factory.

Palestine Action group wrote in a statement on Thursday that the “activists have taken direct action in response to Elbit’s funneling of arms to the Israeli Occupation Force, which is using them to commit war crimes in Gaza."

The statement depicted the Israeli attacks in Gaza as “abhorrent violence” which has killed at least 230 Palestinians, including 65 children.

“With the IDF targeting civilian areas, healthcare premises and key infrastructure, the war crimes being committed rely on technology produced at Elbit sites across the UK”, it added.

Members of the group seized control of the factory in the early hours of the morning, chained the gates shut and scaled the roof of the factory, remaining there more than a day later, with emergency services still on the scene.

They have blocked the workers’ access to the plant, causing a pause to the production line.

The Palestine Action has said its members are determined to remain at the site and prevent its owners from resuming business.

The plant manufactures Hermes drones that are extensively being used by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The factory also produces Watchkeeper drones, which are used by the Israeli forces and the UK itself.

It is the first time the group has targeted an Israeli-owned weapons manufacturing facility in Leicester.

“Today’s action shows that it is entirely within our power to stop the production of brutal machinery which is fueling war crimes in Palestine,” the group wrote in its statement.

The group also rebuked the Elbit Systems and stressed that the manufacturer is “evidently aware of the thousands of people who have seen the horrific events of the last week and who recognize Elbit’s abhorrent role in these war crimes.”

The activists believe that most of the inflicted death and destruction by occupation forces in Palestine are done with “UK-made munitions and military technology.”

They stood firmly on their position reiterating that “it is the duty of anyone who has been rightly appalled by these atrocities to stand up and take action, to prevent the Israeli war machine receiving any more armaments produced in this country.”

The Palestine Action’s striking at the Leicester site come on the heels of the rise in Palestinian death toll in Gaza as a result of Israeli strikes.

The indiscriminate and brutal land and air strikes by Israeli forces against the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip has been going on since May 10.

Israeli forces have attacked Gaza's energy grid, cutting it off from the rest of the world and have also destroyed Al Jazeera and The Associated Press office buildings, in what rights groups deem a war crime.

Demonstrations and protests in solidarity with Palestine have been taking place across the UK.

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