Pro-Palestinian Protesters Occupy Combat Drone Factory

Pro-Palestinian activists have staged a protest on the roof of an Israeli-owned factory involved in building combat drones.

The grassroots group Palestine Action began occupying the roof of the UAV Tactical Systems factory at the Meridian Business Park in Leicester, U.K. at around 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday after protesters dressed in red jumpsuits chained the gates shut and disrupted production at the facility.

The protesters also sprayed red paint across the side of the factory and chanted "Shut Elbit down" while holding a "Palestine Action" banner and a Palestinian flag, according to Leicestershire Live.

The factory is owned by both the French aerospace company Thales and the Israeli-based defence electronics business, Elbit Systems.

Palestine Action have alleged that the factory builds unmanned aerial vehicles that have been used in the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic political party which has an armed wing of the same name.

Violence between Israel and Hamas has escalated over the last two weeks, as there have been more than 200 reported deaths after several air strikes and rockets were exchanged.

In a statement on their website on Wednesday, Palestine Action said: "Today's action shows that it is entirely within our power to stop the production of brutal machinery which is fuelling war crimes in Palestine.

"The past week has shown the relentless death and destruction that Israeli forces can and will inflict with UK-made munitions and military technology."

Palestine Action confirmed that it will take more direct action against Elbit Systems factories, and told Newsweek in a statement that the protesters "plan to stay there as long as possible."

"Every moment that they shut Elbit down is longer that Israel cannot produce these arms that are used to kill innocent Palestinians and to supply oppressive regimes across the world."

Several of Elbit System's U.K.-based factories, including ones in Greater Manchester and Bristol, have been targeted by Palestine Action previously, but this is the first time that the Leicester facility has seen direct action from the group.

In a statement about the protest on Wednesday, a Leicestershire Police spokesman told BBC News: "Officers attended, along with colleagues from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service.

"A further group of protesters have since arrived on the ground. Police remain at the scene and are attempting to engage with those on the roof."

Palestine Action confirmed to Newsweek that the local fire crews are no longer at the scene and left the factory without removing the protesters.

Newsweek has contacted Elbit Systems U.K. and Leicestershire Police for comment.

Palestine Action protest Elbit Systems
Smoke flares are let off as activists from Palestine Action close down the Elbit systems drone factory, by climbing onto it's roof, in protest at the company's links to the Israeli military on May 19, 2021 in Leicester, England. The protest has come after the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas. Guy Smallman/Getty Images