Pro-Palestine campaigners have chained the doors shut and are occupying the roof of an arms factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, owned by an Israeli military company that manufactures engines for drones exported to Israel.
At around 5am, a group of 12 activists from the London Palestine Action network chained shut the main gates to the factory and scaled the 8m roof. The group are now staging an occupation of the rooftop with the intention of closing the factory.
The Shenstone factory operates under the name UAV Engines Limited, a UK registered company owned by Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons company and the world’s largest manufacturer of drones. The drone engines produced at the factory have been exported to Israel in 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to official government data.
In 2009 Amnesty International pointed to evidence that engines from the factory were used in Hermes 450 drones that have been documented as documented as being used to deliberately attack and kill civilians during the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza.
The occupation comes the day after the UK government pledged to investigate whether any of £8bn of arms exported to Israel in the last 5 years are being used in Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians in Gaza.
One of the occupiers, Sara Cooper, 26, a teacher from south London said:
“By allowing this factory to export engines for killer drones to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel's massacres.”
“The UK government has blood on its hands and must end its support for Israel’s crimes against humanity by ending all forms of military cooperation with Israel, starting by closing this factory. We demand the UK government stop arming Israel.”
“Israel is only able to murder Palestinian civilians in cold blood and attack UN schools and hospitals because of the huge military cooperation it enjoys with companies and governments around the world. This factory is the clearest example of the vast military cooperation taking place between the UK and Israel.”
The factory is also a key part of the £1bn Watchkeeper program under which Elbit Systems is leading the manufacture of a new generation of drones for the UK military. The Watchkeeper drone is based on the Hermes 450, documented as being used to kill Palestinian civilians during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza.
“Elbit Systems markets its drone technology as ‘battle tested’, a sickening boast that their drones have been proven to be effective at killing Palestinians. The UK government is importing technology that has been developed during the course of Israel’s crimes against humanity.”
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