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Palestine activists claim victory as Israeli firm Elbit sells off Oldham operation

AN ISRAELI-OWNED weapons factory in the north-west is being sold following a sustained campaign of action by Palestine supporters.

Elbit Ferranti in Oldham, Greater Manchester, manufactures components for drones and pilotless aircraft supplied to the Israeli military, which campaigners say are used in attacks on Gaza.

For more than 18 months, the factory has been targeted in weekly protests organised by the Oldham Peace & Justice group and backed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Occupations by direct-action group Palestine Action have repeatedly shut the factory and halted production.

Now Elbit has announced it is being sold to TT Electronics as part of a “restructuring” of its British operations.

Chief executive of Elbit Systems UK Martin Fausset said: “This reorganisation is part of our strategy to focus activities on certain areas in order to support the continuous expansion of our operations and collaborations in the UK.”

But the Palestine campaigners said the decision is a victory for them.

A Palestine Action spokesperson said: “Occupations of the site have caused weeks of forced factory closure and have cost millions in damages to the company.

“Direct action works: the brave individuals who occupied the factory over the past year can proudly say that drone technologies are no longer in production in Oldham.”

The group said the sale of the factory “is most likely due to the impossibility of continuing at the often-occupied site, the massive financial impact of occupations and an attempt to avoid more bad publicity.”

The first action taken in Oldham by Palestine Action, in late August 2020, involved spraying the premises in blood-red paint, symbolising the Palestinian bloodshed made possible with Elbit Ferranti technologies.

As reported in the Morning Star, activists have blockaded the factory, “locking on” to gates and blocking off roads leading to the site. 

Activists have also occupied the building itself by breaking in and clambering onto the roof. 

Such actions have lasted up to 12 hours, causing substantial losses to the firm, campaigners say.

Thirty-six people have been arrested during the Elbit occupations in Oldham.

The sale still leaves Elbit UK with 10 sites in Britain, employing over 500 people engaged in high-tech and specialist manufacturing activities for military and civilian uses.

Other Elbit factories have also been targeted in protests and occupations, including at Shenstone in Staffordshire.

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