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Israel's killing of Palestinians in Nablus has triggered a backlash in British drone factories

Activists during a protest in which they entered the UAV Engines facilities building in Shenstone, Birmingham, 24 July 2022 [VX Photo/ Vudi Xhymshiti]
Activists entered the Shenstone factory of Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems in Birmingham on 24 July 2022 [VX Photo/ Vudi Xhymshiti]

I think most of us have heard of the chaos theory, commonly called the "butterfly effect", which states that if one butterfly flaps its wings at just the right time in just the right place it can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away. I'm not sure how true it is, but it illustrates how seemingly routine events in one place can have an impact somewhere else.

In other words, for every action, there is a reaction, and while the brutal Israel occupation of Palestine has tried to normalise the killing and murder of Palestinians, a small group of activists in the UK has decided to invoke the chaos theory to expose the crimes against humanity committed by the rogue state.

Within hours of Israeli troops invading and raiding the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, killing two Palestinians and injuring nine others, activists with Palestine Action descended upon the Shenstone factory of Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems and struck at the exterior of the site.  Apart from using their now trademark red paint, the activists were also armed with brightly coloured, but harmless, smoke flares.

In a hard-hitting message to Tel Aviv, Palestine Action issued this statement on Sunday: "Today, a message to the Israeli occupation and those who uphold it — the day has passed where your violence will go unchecked, prepare to be met with resistance every step of the way. Activists took action today seeking to dismantle an industry built on occupation, dispossession and warfare across the globe."

READ: Israeli army kills 2 Palestinians in Nablus

The activists targeted UAV Engines — a factory belonging to Elbit, which is Israel's largest arms manufacturer — and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage. The factory makes components for Elbit's military drones, including the Hermes 450 and 900, which may well have been used in Nablus in the early hours of Sunday. The drones are also used extensively in surveillance and military strikes against Palestinians living in Gaza.

Palestine Action has made headlines in MEMO several times over the past year for targeting Elbit, which also makes the Watchkeeper drone modelled on the Hermes 450 and is supplied to the British military, border force and other government agencies. This particular drone is used for policing British citizens and monitoring migrants attempting to cross the English Channel.

A Palestine Action spokesperson said: "Elbit drones are made in Britain, tested on Palestine then sold back to the British military, amongst others. The British military holds deep ties with Elbit — Britain is an accomplice in an international industry built on occupation, one where technology is suited not to meet human needs, but to further repression and terror. We can only cut these ties with direct action taken by the masses — ordinary people, willing to make sacrifices in order to end our collective complicity."

The two Palestinians killed overnight in Al-Yasmina district of Nablus have been identified as Muhamad Azizi, 25, who was shot in the chest, and Abdul Rahman Jamal Suleiman Sobh, 28, who was shot in the head. One house was cordoned off before it was blown up. More than a dozen people were wounded, some seriously.

READ: 3 Palestinians injured by Israeli fire in West Bank

Senior Palestinian official Hussein Al-Sheikh described the carnage as a crime and said that the Israel occupation will be held responsible. "Another crime committed by the occupation forces in the old city of #Nablus, where martyrs have fallen and many wounded, there was also destruction of homes and burning of property," he tweeted. "We strongly condemn this crime, and we hold the occupation responsible for its repercussions."

As usual, the Israeli army played down the one-sided nature of the attack by trying to portray the incident as an evenly matched clash of arms. It said that there were exchanges of fire between armed suspects and troops that ended with "neutralising the terrorists inside the house and on its roof".

Israeli raids and military action in the occupied West Bank have become an almost nightly occurrence but locals say that they have increased in recent months in terms of firepower. At least 52 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the occupied West Bank.

Usually, Tel Aviv refers to the dead as armed fighters but civilians have also been caught up in the fire. The high profile killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh when she was covering an Israeli raid in Jenin is a case in point. Family and supporters are still demanding justice for her murder and have called on the International Criminal Court to intervene.

It remains to be seen if the ICC will bring her killer to justice, but it is quite clear from yesterday's reaction that Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems in the UK should brace itself for more retaliatory action if the brutal Israeli occupation forces continue to kill Palestinians.

Dozens of UK-based pro-Palestinian activists who risk arrest and loss of liberty are attracting mass support these days, especially from locals who wish to see an end to a brutal industry operating on their doorstep. Palestine Action has already claimed responsibility for the closure of two of Elbit's sites in London and Oldham. The activists say that they will not stop until UAV Engines Ltd. closes for good.

READ: Israel's leading arms dealer is running scared

Elbit's drones are used by some buyers for the violent repression of civilian populations as well as in air and sea surveillance. The Hermes 450/900 drones have been "battle-tested" in Gaza where they maintain a constant presence in the skies, made known by their distinct buzzing. The threat of bombing is always lurking in the background.

Moreover, Elbit drones make up 85 per cent of Israel's drone fleet, and are used to keep entire populations living in fear, with a permanent siege mentality. It is little wonder that more than 90 per cent of Palestinian children living in Gaza suffer from PTSD.

According to Palestine Action, yesterday's targeting of the arms factory was done in the name of innocent Palestinian children, "with a promise of resistance until victory — an end to Britain's complicity, and a Palestine free from the horrors of occupation and state terror."

Trials following the arrest of activists in Britain have collapsed or been thrown out. It is well known that the Palestine Action group would welcome a full trial in which executives of the arms company would have to give evidence about the weapons they manufacture and how they're deployed. Given that war crimes and crimes against humanity are involved — Israel commits both regularly — perhaps the police would be better employed interviewing those who are reluctant to take the stand in a British court and give evidence, rather than arresting Palestine Action activists.

Now that they are escalating their mission to close down Elbit by increasing attacks and using dramatic smoke flares as well as their red paint, it is clear that they will not stop as long as ever more serious crimes are committed with impunity against the Palestinian people by the Zionist apartheid state of Israel. The companies and people making money from the rogue state may well come to regret its contempt for international law.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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