Pro-Palestinian activists crash two vans into UK factory owned by Israeli arms company
Pro-Palestinian activists have crashed two vans into a factory in Shenstone as part of an ongoing attack on the military drone making company.
According to the activists, two vans were ploughed into the gates of the Shenstone UAV Engines factory in Lichfield, with six campaigners directly “locked on to the vans to prevent their removal” as they obstruct all entrances to the factory.
“UAV Engines is owned in whole by Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company, and has faced regular disruption as a result of direct action for over two years,” say protesters from Palestine Action.
In recent weeks, the factory has seen numerous occupations and disruptive action, with a protest camp set up outside the premises. The protesters have stated UAV Engines has been targeted owing to its production of parts and engines for Elbit Systems’ range of combat drones.
“These drones include the Hermes 450 & 900, which Elbit markets as ‘battle-tested’ – on Palestinians, Watchkeeper and Shadow drones.
On Monday morning (3 October), two vans rammed into the the gates of the drones factory in Shenstone as part of anti-Israeli military action.
“One van has crashed into the gate, while the second is blocking it and obstructing entry to the Israeli drone engine factory,” Palestine Action confirmed.
“Two activists were arrested in the process, while the remaining activists swiftly locked-on to the vans, preventing the vans’ removal and bringing the site to a standstill.
“The UAV Engines factory is operated by Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company, as one of the firm’s eight remaining British locations. Police and Elbit Systems’ hired security have acted swiftly, erecting checkpoints around the town of Shenstone and temporarily closing the road leading to the factory.
The incident follows a sustained political attack on the company as a means of highlighting what activists describe as “Israeli state terror” against Palestinians, action which has included a multi tent based occupation outside the factory in recent weeks.
“Today’s action is the latest in a number of instances of direct action taken to prevent operations at the Shenstone factory. The site has been met with sustained direct action over the past two years, with dozens of groups of activists stepping in to prevent the manufacture of drone engines and parts.
“These actions include blockades and lock-ons to prevent entrance to the site, as has happened today, along with roof top occupations and the dismantling of the factory premises. Activists at the site have been joined by Staffordshire residents, who have repeatedly turned out in support of the #ShutElbitDown campaign, with the presence of the site being the source of grievance for many in the local community.”
According the campaigners, the factory specialises in the manufacture of engines and other parts used in combat drones such as the Hermes 450/900, a lynchpin in Israel’s military operations.
“The factory also manufactures parts for the Watchkeeper, used for surveillance purposes by Britain and the EU, and the Shadow drone, which forms part of the US military arsenal, notably used in the American invasion of Iraq and likely to be used in ongoing attacks on Yemen.
“Elbit Systems, which produced 85% of Israel’s drone fleet, manufactures a number of combat and surveillance drones for export – marketing their products as ‘battle-tested’ or ‘combat-proven’ as a result of their deployment by Israeli forces against Palestinians. Israel continues to use drones to murder and repress Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied territories, with the past week seeing Israeli deployment of drones against protesting Palestinians in Nablus.”
The protesters believe targeting factories which aid the Israeli military acts as a deterrent, often forcing the companies to close ro relocate.
In August, Palestine Action activists vandalised a Tamworth warehouse building in protest at its supposed links with Israeli arms.
In response to the latest protest, a spokesperson for the group said: “This action is the latest in the Shut Elbit Down campaign, intent on driving up pressure on Israel’s largest arms company to leave.
“Many are now realising that when your own government actively supports the oppression of other nations, you have not only a right to disrupt this, but also a duty to. Day by day, Israel’s impunity is crumbling, and with it, people are flocking to take direct action at every level to end the daily violence Palestinians face.”
In pictures taken at the scene, local police from the Lichfield District are visible on site. Staffordshire Police have not yet issued a comment on the incident. Elbit Systems has been contacted for comment.