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Campaigners block entrance to defence site over weapons sales to Israel

At the BAE Systems site in Samlesbury protestors had blocked the entrance <i>(Image: Nq)</i>
At the BAE Systems site in Samlesbury protestors had blocked the entrance (Image: Nq)

Campaigners have staged protests outside a Samlesbury defence factory in the latest demonstration against arms being sent to Israel.

The campaign group Workers for a Free Palestine said it had also blockaded sites in Bournemouth, Glasgow and Brighton, some of which are operated by defence giant BAE Systems.

At the BAE Systems site in Samlesbury people could be seen at the entrance holding up a  huge ‘Stop arming Israel’ banner and Palestine flags.

It comes amidst the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Fighting sparked following Hamas' terrorist attack in Israel on October 7, killing hundreds of civilians and taking hostages.

Israel has since mounted an offensive on Hamas with a barrage of Gaza City - it says the strikes are targeted on Hamas sites, but more than 10,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the fighting.

The demonstrators are urging BAE and other companies to end their ties with Israel and cease all weapons, defence and supplies trading with them.

They are also calling on the UK Government to back a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and are calling for an end to the occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The UK and US have both called for humanitarian pauses to allow hostages to be released and aid to reach civilians in Gaza, and neither Israel or Hamas have supported ceasefire calls.

The protestors also claim BAE systems produces components of weapons sold to Israel, such as the F35 combat aircraft and the Mk 38 Mod 2 machine gun system.

BAE sells products to several countries around the world, including the UK, USA, Australia and £17.6-billion worth of aircraft, weapons and services to the Saudi Arabia military since 2015, when Riyadh began bombing Yemen which has seen thousands of civilians killed.

The biggest protest was at Eaton Mission Systems in Wimborne near Bournemouth where around 600 people took part.

Lancashire Telegraph:
Lancashire Telegraph:

The scene at the BAE Systems site in Samlesbury on Thursday

Jenny, a spokesperson for the Workers for a Free Palestine group, who did not give her surname, said: “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.

“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.

“We won’t stop shutting down these factories until they stop supporting Israel’s murderous war machine.”

Scott, a youth worker aged 26, who also did not wish to give his surname, said: “We are not here to shame or blame workers at BAE.

“The company’s management decides what to produce and who to sell to – it is them we hold accountable for being part of the chain of killing.”

A BAE Systems spokesperson said: “We’re horrified by the situation in Israel and Gaza and the devastating impact it’s having on civilians in the region and we hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

“We respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully. We operate under the tightest regulation and comply fully with all applicable defence export controls, which are subject to ongoing assessment.”

Similar protests were held in other European countries on Thursday including France and Denmark.