Pro-Palestinian activists on the roof of the factory this morning

Pro-Palestinian activists shut down Israeli arms firm

Pro-Palestinian activists shut down Israeli arms firm

A Staffordshire factory which is owned by an Israeli military company has been shut down by pro-Palestinian activists.

Twelve members of London Palestine Action chained shut the main gates of the factory at around 05:00 BST and then scaled the roof, unfurled a banner and staged an occupation.

The factory operates under the name UAV Engines Limited, a UK registered company owned by Elbit Systems, Israel's largest weapons company.

It is part of a deep level of cooperation between Israel and Britain on drone technology, which is expected to provide the UK's drone equipment into 2040, as well as servicing Israeli military needs.

Amnesty International believes engines from the factory have been used in drones which were used to attack civilians in Gaza during 2008's Operation Cast Lead.

"By allowing this factory to export engines for killer drones to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel's massacres," one of the occupiers, a teacher from south London said.

"Israel is only able to murder Palestinian civilians in cold blood and attack UN schools and hospitals because of the huge military cooperation it enjoys with companies and governments around the world. This factory is the clearest example of the vast military cooperation taking place between the UK and Israel."

Elbit shares have shot up 6.1% since the start of the military assault on Gaza, with its stock rising to its highest level since 2010.

Amnesty International UK arms programme campaign manager Oliver Sprague said: "It’s understandable that protesters are targeting UAV Engines given past concerns about the company supplying Israel with engines for drones.

"The government has previously claimed UAV Engines is only licensed to sell drone engines to Israel for onward export, but the fear is that this Israeli-owned company's engines are actually powering Israeli drones over Gaza, or that the technology is being copied to allow Israel to fly its drone vehicles.

"Do we really want to see engines from Lichfield helping the Israeli military carry out war crimes in Gaza?

"Quite frankly no UK-based company should currently be supplying the Israeli military with any arms or equipment."

The government yesterday pledged to investigate whether any British arms exports have been used in the military operation in Gaza.

While most of Britain's £7.8 billion military exports to Israel goes on communication technology, millions are also spent on components for sniper rifles, small arms, cockpit displays for F-16 combat aircraft and engine assemblies for Apache helicopters.

The contracts will be examined to see if they are being used for internal repression or the provocation of conflict but there are no plans to see if British-made parts are to be found as components of weapons in Gaza.

In 2008, then-foreign secretary David Miliband admitted UK parts were almost certainly used in the shelling of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Amnesty International and the Green party have called for an arms embargo against Israel, but there is little support for the idea among the three main parties.

A three day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began this morning as a result of Egyptian mediation.