UK Palestine Action activists occupy Elbit-linked factory
Pro-palestinian activists have scaled and occupied the roof of factory in northern England which they say is involved in a supply chain linked to Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems.
Members of the direct-action protest group Palestine Action made their way onto the roof of the APPH building in the Cheshire town of Runcorn at 4.30am on Thursday.
In a statement, the group said that the factory "manufactures military technology and landing gear for Elbit Systems' drone".
Elbit's Hermes drone has been used extensively by Israel's army in surveillance operations and attacks on Gaza and has been marketed as "battle-tested". Israel's most recent assault on the besieged territory claimed the lives of at least 254 Palestinians, including 66 children.
Pictures shared online by Palestine Action showed activists on the roof of the factory, waving a Palestinian flag. The building was smeared with red paint.
The group said it had stormed the factory to "dismantle drone and aircraft machinery", as well as destroying property including "floodlights, ventilators, windows and cameras".
APPH, which sent its factory staff home on Thursday, is owned by Canadian company Heroux Devtek. The company's CEO Martin Brassard denied the company supplied Elbit.
He said that they had designed and manufactured landing gear for a surveillance drone used by the British Army. The British Watchkeeper WK450 is based on a Elbit Hermes 450 drone and built by UAV Tactical System (U-Tacs), a company set up by Elbit and French arms company Thales.
"Since the initial manufacturing was completed around 2012, Héroux-Devtek has been involved with the low-level maintenance of the NLG (nose landing gear) to support the ongoing operational use of this aircraft (the Watchkeeper WK450) with the British Army via our customer UTACS.”, Brassard said in comments reported by the BBC.
"The equipment and services we provide for this equipment have never been exported, with EUU (End User Undertaking) statements for UK only."
Richard Barnard, co-founder of Palestine Action, told The New Arab that since UTACS was a subsidiary of Elbit, the statement by the CEO in effect confirmed that Herou-Devtek was in dealings with the Israeli drone manufacturer.
Cheshire Police said they were aware of a protest taking place at the site and were reportedly seen outside the factory.
Local Labour MP Mike Amesbury weighed in on the matter: "I would be very disappointed if any components used for military hardware involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are being manufactured in my constituency".
Palestine Action says it will continue to target Elbit-linked locations until the company ceases its UK operation, in keeping with organisation's stated aim of ending what it says is British complicity in Israel's alleged war crimes against Palestinians.