Early on Thursday morning, Palestine Action scaled the Leonardo UK weapons factory in Southampton and occupied the rooftop, shutting down production at the site. Activists then begun dismantling the building. The activists intend to sustain their occupation of the arms factory at First Avenue, Millbrook Industrial Estate, Southampton, Hants, SO15 0LG, for as long as possible to maximise disruption to the deadly arms industry which supplies Israel.
The Italian company Leonardo is one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, and it has extensive ties to the Israeli colonial regime, supplying the apartheid state with Aermacchi M-346 aircraft and components for its Apache attack helicopters. Leonardo recently completed a merger with Israeli defence company RADA Electronic Industries, in a move that Leonardo hopes will give them a “stable domestic presence in the Israeli industrial context”. Operating with the Israeli weapons firm under a “One Company” branding model, the company is deeply complicit with Israel’s war crimes. The same is true of its British offshoot, Leonardo UK, which applied for 26 arms export licenses to Israel between 2008 and 2021.
The Southampton site specialises in producing thermal imaging technology for missile guidance systems to “increase target selection accuracy”. Leonardo UK holds at least 4 export licenses to Israel for target acquisition, weapon control and countermeasure systems, meaning that technology produced in the Southampton factory is likely being used by Israeli forces to target mainly civilian Palestinians in the current attack on Gaza.
The action at the Southampton factory follows Palestine Action’s occupation of the Leonardo UK head office in London on 2nd November, the 106th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, issued by Lord Balfour in 1917, which signed away the land of Palestine to the Zionist colonial project – a land Britain never had the right to give away. Palestine Action also occupied and dismantled the Leonardo factory in Edinburgh two days ago.
Palestine Action is continuing and intensifying its campaign against Britain’s complicity in Israeli war crimes at a time when Israel has been carrying out a brutal assault on Gaza for 40 days. During this period, the Israeli military targeted and bombed schools, homes, mosques, churches, hospitals, and other civil infrastructure in deliberate attacks on civilians. The latest atrocity involved Israeli ground forces storming the Al-Shafi Hospital in Gaza, forcing Palestinians who were sheltering there outside into the cold and making them remove their clothes as they were interrogated. 36 premature babies have been taken off incubators due to the Israeli bombing of the hospital’s oxygen supply, resulting in the death of 3 babies so far. Over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7th October, including over 5,000 children, in what a senior UN official has described as “a textbook case of genocide“.