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Palestine activists smash into and occupy Elbit's Leicestershire drone factory

May 8, 2024 at 12:33 pm

Activists from Palestine Action occupy the London offices of Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems to protest at the company supplying arms to the Israeli military on August 6, 2020 in London, England [Guy Smallman/Getty Images]

Several activists from Palestine Action have again targeted Elbit’s Leicestershire drone factory, UAV Tactical Systems. One contingent smashed through the fence and into the weapons manufacturer using a lorry, which two activists have climbed on top off. Simultaneously, another contingent scaled the building and are currently occupying the roof of the Israeli-owned drone maker.

Red paint has been sprayed across the building to symbolise the company’s alleged involvement in spilling Palestinian blood, whilst those on the roof have used tools to break through it and expose the contents inside the “murder” factory.

“UAV Tactical Systems is majority owned by Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems, which manufactures 85 per cent of Israel’s military drone fleet amongst other lethal arms,” said Palestine Action in a media release. “Despite the company’s earlier attempts to obscure its relationship with Israel, previous export licences reveal that drone technologies are regularly exported from the factory to the apartheid state.”

Nevertheless, the company denied that it supplies “the Israeli military or Israeli ministry of defence”. It was quoted as saying by the Leicester Mercury that, “Any claims to the contrary are completely false.”

According to the activist group, the Elbit and UAV Tactical Systems business model is based on, firstly, “Facilitating Israel’s war crimes including genocide and apartheid.” In doing so, it added, “Elbit develop its technologies through ‘battle-testing’ on Palestinians, before repackaging and selling on products used to fuel violence abroad.”

UAV Tactical Systems’ flagship drone, the Watchkeeper, has been used by the British military in Iraq, Afghanistan and the English Channel. “It is modelled on the notorious and deadly Hermes 450 drone, after the latter was ‘tested’ on Palestinians,” alleged Palestine Action.

Elbit drones are used regularly by the Israeli military during the ongoing genocide in Gaza. According to the United Nations, since 7 October the Israeli military has killed at least 34,735 Palestinians — mainly children and women — and wounded more than 78,000 others. Over 70,000 housing units have been destroyed. Previous bombardments have forced over one million Palestinians to flee to Rafah in Gaza, which the Israeli military is now invading despite it being the only supposed “safe zone” left in the besieged enclave.

A week ago, the US paused a shipment of munitions to Israel over the then impending Rafah invasion. Yet, the UK government has failed to impose a two-way arms embargo and continues to allow Elbit Systems to operate in this country.

“This country is a signatory to the Genocide convention,” explained one Palestine Action activists ahead of its latest move against the Elbit factory in Braunstone, Leicestershire. “These laws are not to be discounted just because it’s politically expedient to do so. They were set up for a reason and I cannot accept that the country I was born in and have lived in all my life is deciding to flout those laws.”

Another insisted that, “If the government isn’t going to act, it is my personal, moral and legal right to take direct action.”

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