Dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the UK blocked entrances to a BAE Systems factory in southeast England on Friday, targeting the UK’s largest military supplier to call for an end to arms sales to Israel.
Around 50 people held banners reading “Stop Arming Israel” and waved Palestinian flags outside one of the entrances to the factory in Rochester, Kent, where BAE Systems tests and assembles electronic equipment used in military aircraft and surveillance systems.
Several dozen protesters also gathered at other entrances to the facility.
While the company stated that it doesn’t directly export equipment to Israel, it is a major supplier of components used in the American-made F-35 fighter jets used by Israel.
A company spokesperson conveyed that the situation in Israel and Gaza deeply distressed them, and they expressed great concern over the devastating impact on civilians in the region. They hoped for a swift resolution.
They further mentioned that they respected the right of all individuals to engage in peaceful protest.
They stated that the company operated under stringent regulatory guidelines and adhered fully to all export controls related to defense equipment, which were subject to ongoing evaluation.
This protest at the UK facility follows actions taken by unions in Belgium and Spain, which have refused to handle shipments of military materials due to the war in Gaza.
Earlier this week, a dockworkers’ union in the port of Barcelona refused to load or unload any military cargo.
In late October, Belgian transport unions called on their members not to handle military equipment being sent to Israel.
Protests in support of Palestinians in Gaza have been taking place in cities across Europe in recent weeks.
A large pro-Palestinian march is planned for Saturday in London, but it has sparked controversy because it coincides with the Remembrance Day for the end of World War I, raising concerns about potential counter-protests in the capital.
For the 35th consecutive day, Israel has been conducting a ground, air, and naval offensive on the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of over 10,818 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and leaving approximately 27,000 injured. The attacks have also caused extensive damage to residential areas, vital infrastructure, and hospitals.