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Israel-Palestine war: Protesters blockade UK factories building F-35 warplane parts used by Israel

Workers and trade unions have targeted four British arms factories supplying components used to build the F-35 stealth fighter
Workers for a Free Palestine, made up of workers from various sectors, blockaded the Eaton Missions Systems in Bournemouth (MEE/Talia Woodin)

Hundreds of workers and protesters have shut down four arms factories across the UK, which supply components for the F-35 stealth fighter jet used by Israel to bomb Gaza.

The four arms factories include Eaton Mission Systems in Bournemouth, BAE Systems at Samlesbury Aerodrome in Lancashire, L3Harris factory in Brighton, and the BAE Systems Govan site in Glasgow. 

Each of the four arms factories supply components that are necessary for building the F-35 stealth fighter jet. 

According to its company website, L3-Harris’ systems are integral to several US combat aircraft including the F-22, F/A-18 and F-35. It also manufactures bomb-release mechanisms for the F-35 combat aircraft and Reaper drone, both of which are deployed by Israel in Gaza. 

Footage posted online showed activists blockading the entrances to the four factories since the early morning and preventing workers from the arms factory from entering the sites. 

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Jenny, a trade unionist from the group Workers for a Free Palestine, which helped organise Thursday’s actions, said the blockade was a necessary step to support Palestinians trapped in Gaza. 

'The fighter jets these factories help to produce are being used to imprison the people of Gaza in a death trap'

- Jenny, Workers for a Free Palestine

“The fighter jets these factories help to produce are being used to imprison the people of Gaza in a death trap. They are ordered to evacuate when they have nowhere safe to go, while our government still refuses to back a ceasefire,” said Jenny. 

“Workers all over Britain are rising up for Palestine, saying we will not allow arms used in a genocide to be supplied in our name and funded by our taxes. 

“Our movement is growing rapidly and gaining more momentum each day. We are escalating our tactics and today’s blockades are seeing unprecedented numbers of people take part in the disruption of Israeli arms manufacturing in Britain, in concert with workers targeting Israeli arms suppliers around Europe.“

'Systematic targeting'

Kay, a healthcare worker who joined the picket line outside the Eaton Mission Systems factory in Bournemouth told Middle East Eye their decision to protest came to oppose the “decimation of Gaza’s healthcare system” with Israeli warplanes. 

“The strategy that Israel is using in this genocide is to systematically target healthcare facilities and systematically targeting disabled Palestinians,” said Kay.

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“The same UK government that has decimated the NHS and social care services through austerity is using that money to underwrite UK companies like Eaton Mission to arm the Israelis to commit its genocide.” 

The F-35 fighter jet is built by Lockheed Martin in the US, with the help of international partners, including British factories, which supply components used to help build the warplanes. 

Earlier this year, Israel placed an additional order of 25 F-35 stealth fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, in a deal worth $3bn. 

The additional 25 aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin will bring the number of F-35s in Israel's air force to 75, the Israeli defence ministry said. The purchase will be financed by aid money Israel receives from the US.

Miranda Allan, a Palestinian refugee who lives in the UK, attended the protest at the L3 Harris arms factory in Brighton.

“It’s important to stop arming Israel. We need to understand why this war is happening," she told MEE. "This war is a business, there is gas [in Gaza]. They want to make the new Silk Road through Gaza. Israel wants to continue this agenda.

“I was born in a camp in Jordan. Why am I a refugee? I have a beautiful house, beautiful land near Jaffa (Israel).

“As a Palestinian we have seen a lot, we have feared a lot, now we have no fear.”

Actions across Europe

Thursday’s actions come as workers in other parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, France and Germany, held similar actions.

Earlier this week, Dutch lawyers petitioned a court to demand the Netherlands stop exporting F-35 components that could be used by Israel to attack Gaza. 

The protests come as Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza with support from western countries, including Britain and the US. 

Since last Friday, more than 900 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes, after a brief truce that saw the release of Palestinian children and women prisoners and Israeli hostages ended. 

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza has so far killed more than 16,000 Palestinians in Gaza, with the majority of the dead being women and children. At least 7,000 more are missing, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

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