Smash EDO activists accused of plotting to cause thousands of pounds of damage to a Brighton weapons factory have been cleared after claiming to be preventing Israeli war crimes.

Today, Christopher Osmond, 30, Elijah Smith, 42, were cleared, two days after six other anti-war campaigners were also acquitted after saying they acted with "lawful excuse".

All had admitted breaking into the Moulsecoomb headquarters of EDO MBM in the early hours of January 17 last year and sabotaging equipment in the region of £200,000.

During their three-week trial at Hove Crown Court it was said they were acting with "lawful excuse" to prevent further alleged war crimes being committed by Israel against Gaza.

Today Osmond, from Brighton, and Smith, from Bristol, were acquitted of conspiracy to cause criminal damage on the directions of the judge, George Bathurst-Norman.

Earlier this week Simon Levin, 35, from Brighton, Tom Woodhead, 25, Ornella Saibene, 50, Bob Nicholls, 52, and Harvey Tadman, 44, all from Bristol, were cleared of the same charge.

Another defendant, Rosa Bellamy, 23, from Brighton, was cleared part-way through the trial on the directions of the judge who ruled the prosecution had not proved its case against her.

Outside court, campaigners said that they believed EDO MBM was breaking export regulations by manufacturing and selling to the Israelis military equipment which would be used in the occupied territories.

The defendants' solicitor, Lydia Dagostino, said: "We are delighted at the result. I think it sends a clear indication that sometimes direct action is the only option when all other avenues have failed."

The activists are the latest peace and environmental campaigners to use the defence of lawful excuse at trial.

In 2008, six environmental campaigners were cleared of causing £30,000 damage after painting the name "Gordon" on the 656ft (200m) stack at Kingsnorth power station in Kent in a political protest against its redevelopment.

During their trial at Maidstone Crown Court, they claimed they were acting lawfully to try to stop further damage to properties being caused around the world by global warming.

Following his acquittal today, Osmond said: "It was the right verdict. Our action was because nobody else was willing to take action.

"During one operation 1,400 people had been killed, 350 children had died, and nobody was willing to take action.

"Our politicians and the United Nations were not taking action to support the people of Gaza and it was necessary for ordinary people to take action like we did."

He added that there would no let-up in their campaign against the company.

"Ordinary people in Brighton won't stop campaigning until EDO MBM closes down," he said.

"We are going to be here until they are not."

Sussex Police said that, while they respected the decision of the court, 20 people had been convicted following four major demonstrations or targeted action aimed at the firm over the past two years.

In a statement, Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, Brighton and Hove City commander, said: "Sussex Police want to facilitate peaceful protests to ensure the safety of both participants and members of the community and to minimise disruption to the city.

"When these are not peaceful, we need to fulfil our duty to take action and where necessary investigate and present evidence before the court."

He added: "I urge those who wish to hold demonstrations in the city to abide by the law and notify the police of their intentions in advance so that jointly we can plan a safe but visible event which respects their right to protest and others' rights to go about their business free from intimidation and violence."

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: "I am absolutely delighted that the jury has recognised that the actions of the decommissioners were a legitimate response to the atrocities being committed in Gaza.

"I do not advocate non-violent direct action lightly.

"However, in this situation, it is clear that the decommissioners had exhausted all democratic avenues and, crucially, that their actions were driven by the responsibility to prevent further suffering in Gaza."