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by Bethany Rielly
THREE activists have been arrested after shutting down a weapons factory involved in making killer drones for Israel’s army – disrupting production at the site for the third time in six months.
The three, who are members of solidarity group Palestine Action, were apprehended by police after locking themselves to the gates of UAV Engines in Shenstone, Staffordshire, in the early hours of this morning.
They prevented workers accessing the site and halted production for the morning. Red paint was also hurled across the factory’s front using fire extinguishers.
The Shenstone factory is owned by Elbit Systems UK, part of an international Israeli arms company that supplies over 80 per cent of Israel’s drone fleet. Its armed drones were used extensively in Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza, in which 2,200 Palestinians were killed.
One of the protesters locked to the gates said: “We’re here because this is one of the most toxic arms industries.
“The drones that they make here … the payloads that they can drop on Palestinians, create craters that wipe out entire families.”
Staffordshire police said that officers were called to the factory at 4.15am on Monday morning, later arresting three people on suspicion of criminal damage. The three were taken into custody.
The force said in a statement: “During this period of national lockdown we would encourage people not to leave their homes for reasons other than those set out in the government guidance.”
Justifying the protest during lockdown, a member of Palestine Action said: “If making bombs for the world’s most repressive regimes is considered ‘essential’ during a pandemic, then Palestine Action’s effort to prevent them is mandatory.”
Today’s protest follows a three-day occupation of UAV Engines in September, allegedly costing Elbit £400,000, and a blockade of the factory in November.
During its November protest at UAV Engines, campaigners accused officers of pepper-spraying and arresting legal observers.
The group, which launched last July, said it has been subjected to a “continued pattern of harassment and intimidation” from police over its use of direct action methods against Elbit.
Today, another activist was forced into police custody after her home was raided and electronic devices seized, according to Palestine Action.
The group remains determined to continue their campaign despite “police persecution, raids and repression.”
Palestinian journalist Abdalrahim Alfarra, who lives in Gaza, said he supported the actions of the group against Elbit. “Every time they close Elbit's factories, they're stopping the production of these weapons and helping to save the lives of my people in Gaza,” he said.
"When Israel bombs us, shoots us, shells us and tries to kill our families and children, it's using weapons made by Elbit,” Mr Alfarra added. “We are being used as guinea pigs.”
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