Activists occupy Israeli arms company building

Helen William, PA
·2-min read

Demonstrators have blocked the entrance of a factory where they claim deadly arms are made.

Protesters from Palestine Action and Extinction Rebellion, armed with banners and red paint, said their early-morning raid on the Israeli-owned Elbit Ferranti factory in Oldham, Greater Manchester, is because they “will not accept an economy based on devastation, occupation and war”.

They have chained the gates and two people have climbed on to a ledge on the front of the factory, where they have daubed red paint over the windows and sprayed the words “Shut Elbit Down”.

Greater Manchester Police said officers are at the scene and have engaged with protesters.

It is the first time the two direct action groups have joined forces.

The groups say the new union sends a strong message to Israel’s largest arms firm, Elbit, that resistance in the UK to its alleged actions against Palestinians is growing.

Extinction Rebellion North and Palestine Action have vowed to escalate their direct action against Elbit until it is shut down for good.

A member of Palestine Action said: “This action is the first of its kind, and the first of many more to come – ordinary people coming together to build a movement of movements.

Elbit Ferranti protest
Protesters block the entrance to Elbit Ferranti in Oldham (Peter Byrne/PA)

“We will continue to take direct action until we shut Elbit down and end all complicity in systematic injustice.”

A 37-year-old protester, who gave his name as Paul, said: “We are not here to be a nuisance but we are here to raise awareness”.

The protest comes weeks after the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Elbit had won a contract for new “sensor to shoot” systems.

The British Army has invested £102 million in a high-end surveillance system which allows frontline soldiers to detect and engage enemy targets in seconds.

Elbit Ferranti protest
Protesters at the entrance to Elbit Ferranti (Peter Byrne/PA)

After the deal was announced last month, defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin said: “This contract with Elbit Systems UK not only delivers the very latest in battlefield technology to our frontline soldiers, but also invests in the British defence industry, sustaining more than 500 jobs across the UK.”

The deal involves state-of-the-art thermal sight technology, so that a dismounted joint fires integrator (DJFI) can enhance soldiers’ ability to find and identify targets on the battlefield.

It then provides the crucial targeting information necessary to fire more quickly and accurately than ever before

A spokesman for Elbit Systems UK said they will not be commenting on the situation.