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Israel's Elbit Systems under renewed pressure from international activists

Activists target Israel's largest military equipment company for the second time in a fortnight, after Israeli army praised Elbit drones
Activists in front of a replica separation wall at an Elbit factory in Australia (Melbourne Palestine Action Group)

Australian activists from the Melbourne Palestine Action Group stopped production at a factory run by Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems in Port Melbourne on Friday morning.

Protestors climbed onto the factory’s roof, as colleagues on the ground erected a makeshift wall in front of the main gate, in reference to the separation wall built by Israel between Israel and the West Bank.

Seven activists were arrested after police ended an early-morning occupation of the building’s roof.

Photo credit: Melbourne Palestine Action Group

Jacob Grech, one of the activists, said that the action aimed to raise awareness about Elbit's practices.

Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest military company, and sells “field-tested” drones, technology that has been used by the Israeli army, on the international markets.

The Israeli army’s chief artillery officer, Roy Riftin, said on 12 August that drones produced by Elbit had been a “real asset” during the recent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which has to date killed over 2,000 Palestinians.

Two types of Elbit drones, SkyRider and Hermes 900, were deployed for the first time in the ongoing operation dubbed “Protective Edge” by the Israeli army.

Shares in Elbit rose by 2.3% on the day after Riftin praised the drones, particularly SkyRider, which he said every brigade has used “non-stop” during the campaign.

Commenting on the feedback from the Israeli army chief, Elbit spokesperson Dalia Rosen said it is “always preferable to hear what the customer has to say.”

Rosen could not be reached for further comment at the time of publication.

According to Palestinian human rights organization al-Mezan Centre, drones killed over 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza between 2000-2010.  

Governments around the world are coming under increasing pressure, including from the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, to halt their economic ties with Israel and suspend arms contracts to the country.

Speaking on behalf of the activists top, Grech said “We are calling on the Australian government to end its contracts with Elbit Systems, which supplies all of the Australian army’s communications systems and the new Australian Federal Police database.”

In 2010, it was reported that the Australian Federal Police was spending $145m on a computer policing system supplied by Elbit Australia, a system subjected to testing in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

The system is due to be up and running by 2017. 

This is the second such non-violent action aimed at stopping production at an Elbit factory within the past two weeks.

Activists from London Palestine Action began a two-day occupation of the roof of a UK Elbit facility near Birmingham on 5 August, unfurling a huge banner that read “UK: Stop Arming Israel.”

The same group targeted a UK government ministry, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills on Friday, calling for an end to UK arms exports to Israel.

Photo credit: Twitter / @LondonPalestine

The department announced on Tuesday that it will suspend 12 arms contracts for equipment used by the Israeli army in Gaza “if significant hostilities resume.”

The vow that came as a disappointment to many who had called for a complete embargo on arms sales, including former Cabinet minister Baroness Warsi.

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