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Israel-Palestine: Activists in UK shut down second Israeli arms factory in a week

Members of Palestine Action group force closure of second Elbit factory, as two activists are arrested at Leicester factory shut down last week
The closure of both the Leicester and Tamworth factories has led to the disruption of Israeli arms production in the UK, 25 May 2021 (VX Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)

At 4.30am on Tuesday, activists from the Palestine Action group scaled and occupied the roof of a factory run by Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems, in the British town of Tamworth, Staffordshire, forcing the site to close.

Elbit’s "Elite KL" site in Tamworth manufactures computer systems, hardware and essential components for Israel's Merkava 4 battle tank, which has been used by Israeli forces in Gaza. 

Elbit is Israel’s largest arms manufacturer, and has 10 sites across the UK, including factories and offices.

A spokesperson for Palestine Action said: “For the sake of the protection of life and human rights, direct-action against Elbit Systems is a moral duty.”

Activists sprayed red paint across the front of the factory, which, according to the group, was used “to symbolise the bloodshed by Elbit's weapons in Palestine and across the world”.

The front of the factory was spray-painted with the words "profiting from death"
The front of the factory was spray-painted with the words 'profiting from death', 25 May 2021 (VX Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)

The closure of the Tamworth site came less than a week after the forced closure of a factory operated by a subsidiary of Elbit Systems in the city of Leicester, following similar activism by the same group.

The closure of both the Leicester and Tamworth sites has led to the disruption of Israeli arms production in the UK.

In Leicester, the Elbit-Thales' UAV Tactical Systems drone factory has been shut for six consecutive days, in what the group calls "the longest continuous occupation yet undertaken by Palestine Action".

Monday night saw the arrest of two Palestine Action activists, who had scaled the roof of the Elbit Systems factory in Leicester. 

Two Palestine Action activists were arrested on the roof of the Elbit Systems factory in Leicester as police closed in on the site
Two Palestine Action activists were arrested on the roof of the Elbit Systems factory in Leicester, 24 May 2021 (VX Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)

Attempts to remove the arrested activists from the site have so far been unsuccessful, with members of the local community resisting police efforts to leave with the detainees by reportedly blocking the entrance to the factory.

Hundreds of local community members in Leicester were reported to have rallied in support of Palestine Action last night by chaining gates and erecting barricades, as well as by blocking the removal of detainees for over six hours.

Footage and images shared on social media denounced police action.

Meanwhile, the group itself condemned the action taken by police, saying in a statement: "This shows the desperation that the police have reached, detaining those who dare to show solidarity with the Palestinian people so that Elbit's business of bloodshed may continue."

Leicestershire Police Assistant Chief Constable Kerry Smith, who was Gold Commander on the policing operation, told Middle East Eye: “We support the right to protest, which is a fundamental human right, however this must be done legally. Criminal damage such as we have seen here cannot be ignored and as such it is only right that the protesters have been arrested”

Online, the hashtag #ShutElbitDown has been used in support of the activism by Palestine Action.

The group has shown no sign of slowing down following the closure of the two sites, confirming in a statement that “Palestine Action will not stop until we shut Elbit down for good".