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‘They can’t ignore us:’ Activists break into Israeli arms factory in Oldham

PALESTINE solidarity activists broke into an Israeli weapons factory in Oldham today, spraying the computers with red paint and scrawling slogans on the walls. 

After storming the factory in the early hours, the three activists, members of the Palestine Action group, climbed onto the roof and vowed to stay there until removed.  

The Oldham factory is owned by drones giant Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private arms firm. 

Further action took place at Elbit’s Bristol offices, again with activists occupying the roof. 

Avon and Somerset Police said that the force was monitoring the protest, though it considered it “a civil matter.”

Both the Oldham and Bristol sites were forced to shut down as a result of the protests, which left windows smashed and “war crime scene” tape stuck to the doors.

Greater Manchester Police said that two female activists had been arrested at Oldham and emergency services were present today afternoon. The pair were chained to the doors of the factory. 

The Morning Star spoke to three protesters occupying the roof. One, who did not want to be named, said that he had taken the action to “stand against an arms company that profiteers from the militarisation of Palestine and beyond.

“Of course, we are geographically far away from the occupied Palestinian territories — but when you have Israel’s largest privately owned arms company here, operating out of 10 sites across the UK, you can do something about it,” he said. 

Elbit Systems has expanded its operations in Britain over the last decade to 10 sites, including four arms factories. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence handed the firm a £100 million contract to develop a “sensor-to-shoot system” for the British army. 

“In a world where there’s so many problems, these companies should be the last to have any investment,” another rooftop protester told the Star. The three, all in their early twenties, said that this was the first time they had taken this type of action. 

“[It] seems like the only plausible way to actually get people to try and put pressure on these organisations to question themselves,” he said. “The occupation has been going on for a century. By doing this direct action we are forcing Elbit to confront us. They can’t choose to ignore us. And the potential risks towards us are nothing compared to the people we are doing this for.”

A Palestine Action spokesperson said: “Israel’s chain of arms factories have absolutely no place in any civilised society and their existence is an utter stain on the UK.”

The joint action was the latest in a series of protests against Elbit sites by the group, which aims to shut down the firm’s operations in Britain. It was the first time that Palestine Action members had broken into an Elbit factory. 

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