PRO-PALESTINIAN activists shackled themselves to fences in Hayes yesterday morning (Wednesday) in a protest agianst Israel's largest food exporter.

The demonstration was at the UK headquarters of Carmel Agrexco in Swallowfield Way, which imports vegetables and fish into the UK.

The activists locked themselves to the fences at both entrances to the site at about 5.30am in protest against the company's use of land in territory illegally occupied by Israel.

In a letter addressed to the company's general manager, Amos Orr, they said: "The business carried out at Agrexco, Swallowfield Way, Middlesex cannot be defined as lawful business as your supply of produce from illegally occupied territories makes you ancillary to apartheid and other crimes against humanity under the International Criminal Court Act 2001."

The demonstrators' spokeswoman, Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, said: "This produce is coming from illegal settlements on the West Bank and other countries should not deal with the company. It's against international law.

"This is part of a non-violent protest against recurrent breaches of human rights and international law in the occupied territories of Palestine."

Carmel Agrexco is 50 per cent owned by the state of Israel.

The activists argue that the "Israeli state-sponsored settlements appropriate land and water resources by military force from Palestinian farming communities in violation of international law and convention".

It is not the first time Carmel Agrexco has been a target for pro-Palestinian activists.

In November 2004 seven activists were arrested outside the Hayes premises. But nine months later, charges of aggravated trespass and failure to leave land were dismissed by District Judge Barnes sitting at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court.

At the same hearing, in September 2005, a judge ruled that Carmel Agrexco had to prove that its business was lawful.

It was revealed that UK Land Registry documents showed that Agrexco UK had built both its entrance and exit gates on land the company did not own and thus it had no legal right to ask the protesters to leave.

Mary said: "The acquittal of the seven activists before they were able to present their defence meant that the court did not have to rule on the legality of Agrexco Carmel's involvement in the supply of produce from illegal settlements in the occupied territories."

Mr Orr said: "It's a democratic country and people can say or do as they wish.

"They have trespassed onto our land but we will not take any action as long as they do not disturb us.

"It's as simple as that. Why use power if it's not necessary?"

As we went to press yesterday (Wednesday) Hillingdon police said the protest was still continuing.

It had been entirely peaceful and only one police officer and a community support officer had been left at the scene to monitor the sitution.