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Activists in UK shut down Israeli weapons factory in Leicester, England

Pro-Palestinian activists and protesters have occupied and shut down an Israeli-owned weapons manufacturing plant in the city of Leicester, England.

Palestine Action, a UK-based activist group, along with protesters, on Wednesday occupied a plant housing the Elbit-Thale Systems subsidiary UAV Tactical Systems in Leicester and proceeded to shut down the company’s operations, arguing that the drones being manufactured in the facility are being used in indiscriminate attacks against the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip.

“Palestine Action have occupied Elbit’s factory, UAV Tactical Systems in Leicester and chained the gates shut, disrupting Elbit’s production of arms and military technology. 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 group said in a statement.

“This action occurs during ongoing and abhorrent violence by the Israeli state in Gaza and the occupied territories, which has killed over 200, including 61 children, and wounded over 1500 in Gaza alone. 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, locking the factory gates, scaling the building’s roofs, and preventing access to the plant by workers and stopping the production of arms. The Palestine Action has said its members are determined to remain at the site and prevent its owners from resuming business.

It is the first time the group has targeted an Israeli-owned weapons manufacturing facility. The plant produces Hermes drones that have been used extensively by occupation forces in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Watchkeeper drone, also used by the Israeli forces, is also manufactured at the facility and used by other host countries, including the UK.

“Over the past week, Elbit’s lethal sites have benefitted from round-the-clock police protection in the wake of escalating Israeli aggression in Gaza and the occupied territories. Elbit are evidently aware of the thousands of people who have seen the horrific events of the last week and who recognise Elbit’s abhorrent role in these war crimes.”

“Today’s action shows that it is entirely within our power to stop the production of brutal machinery which is fuelling war crimes in Palestine. The past week has shown the relentless death and destruction that Israeli forces can and will inflict with UK-made munitions and military technology. 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 occupied and besieged Gaza Strip has entered the second week of indiscriminate and brutal deadly attacks by Israeli ground and air forces. Over 200 Palestinians, the majority of whom are children and women, have been killed, with thousands more injured.

Israeli forces have demolished entire residential and office towers, one of which belonged to Al Jazeera and The Associated Press, an act considered a war crime by rights groups. Occupation forces have also targeted Gaza’s electricity grid, leaving it without power and cut off from the rest of the world.

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