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UK activists shut down weapons factory in protest of Israel’s assault on Gaza

Activists on top of the UAV Engines in Staffordshire, England. (Twitter/London Palestine Action)

Activists occupying the UAV Engines in Staffordshire, England. (Twitter/London Palestine Action)

On Tuesday, a group of activists from the London Palestine Action group chained the doors shut at the UAV Engines factory in Staffordshire, England, then scaled and occupied the roof. Their demands? That the U.K. government end the factory’s manufacture and export of parts used on Israeli drones in light of the recent events in Gaza.

The UAV Engines factory is one of two U.K.-based subsidiaries of Elbit Systems, a company producing electronic military communication systems and unmanned aircraft systems, including the Hermes drone, which is used by the Israeli Air Forces. As such, Elbit Systems is a frequent target of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement, which targets companies that supply infrastructure to and profit off of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

It is unknown whether or not Elbit Systems-made drones are being used in the current assault on Gaza, but an Amnesty International investigation proved that Elbit Systems drones were used during Operation Cast Lead in 2008, an assault on Gaza that culminated in 1,400 Palestinian deaths.

“The U.K. 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,” said Sara Cooper, a 26-year-old teacher and one of the 12 activists occupying the roof of the building. “We demand the U.K. government stop arming Israel.”

Activists are not the only ones voicing dissent over the British government’s role in Israel’s attack on Gaza. On the same morning that the occupation began, U.K. Minister of Faith Sayeeda Hussain Warsi stepped down in protest of her government’s approach to the crisis in Gaza.

“My view has been that … our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically,” she wrote in her resignation letter, which she posted to Twitter.

Convincing the manufacturers themselves and their shareholders may be difficult. Over the past four weeks, as Israel’s assault on Gaza has escalated, Elbit Systems stock shares have soared 6.1 percent to a four-year high of $63.01, a clear result of recent events.

Despite an aggressive police presence outside the factory, as of this writing activists are still occupying the roof and have brought enough supplies to stay for one week.