2001 Israeli Nerve Gas Attacks
For 6 weeks in early 2001, Israel is reported to have carried out a series of nerve gas attacks on Palestinian civilian populations in both Gaza and the West Bank. The symptoms reported match those of tabun, a known anticholinesterase poison belonging to a family of organophosphate nerve poisons. There have been reports of chemical warfare practiced on the Palestinians since 1983.
- 1 Official narrative
- 2 2001 Events
- 3 Israeli actions
- 4 Israeli reaction to concerns
- 5 Subsequent reports
- 6 1999 poison gas claim, unsubstantiated
- 7 1997 nerve toxin assassination attempt
- 8 1983 West Bank fainting epidemic, determined psychological
- 9 Biological Warfare
- 10 Wikipedia connection and bias
- 11 References
Wikipedia's article on this was fast deleted, but formed a useful base for this article. Few CCM sources reported that Israel had used nerve-gas, however, it was misleading to claim that all such reports were "lacking in editorial over-sight" and hence non-reliable per WP:RS policy on "reliable sources", sub-section questionable sources. In fact, CNN did report the accusations on 15th Feb 2000 but only dismissively, mentioning reports that "about 80 Palestinians had been admitted to a Gaza hospital suffering from the effects of poison gas". CNN attributed this story to Arafat in the context of accusations he'd made that Israel "employed depleted uranium munitions against Palestinian demonstrators". Israeli Communications Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is quoted as saying on Israeli TV that the reports were "incorrect and false." Meanwhile, the contemporaneous reports cited here come from credible observers, consistent with each other in most obvious details. It should be noted that collusion would have been difficult, since communication and passage between Gaza and the West Bank was very restricted, even in 2001.
Documented Use of Nerve Gas
At least eight nerve gas attacks were reported as having been carried out on Palestinian civilian populations, starting in Gaza (Khan Younis and adjacent Gharbi refugee camps) on the 12th February 2001, continuing until the end of March, 2001..
Israeli soldiers reported having coming under fire from Palestinians and responded by shelling and machine-gunning Khan Younis, a town then under strict Israeli blockade, the barrage continuing well into the night. The firing drove people inside where closed windows and doors appear to have offered little protection.
The next morning found an estimated 300 Palestinians newly homeless. and that afternoon the new gas canisters rolled into the streets, courtyards, and houses of both Khan Younis city and the Gharbi refugee camp in Gaza.
This first attack led to forty people being admitted to Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis "in an odd state of hysteria and nervous breakdown", suffering from "fainting and spasms." Sixteen of them had to be transferred to the intensive care unit. Doctors "reported the Israeli use of gas that appeared to cause convulsions."(dead link) At the Gharbi refugee camp thirty-two people "were treated for serious injuries" following exposure to the gas. Dr. Salakh Shami at Al-Amal Hospital reported that the hospital received "about 130 patients suffering from gas inhalation from February 12."
Around 3 weeks later on March 2, similar attacks were reported in the West Bank, beginning with the town of Al-Bireh.
No analysis of the Hebrew-labelled containers has been published, but "irreversible binding" of acetylcholinesterase is the most likely explanation for the recurrent and persistent symptoms experienced by the Palestinian victims. The hand-sized gas canisters lobbed produced a staged release of colored smoke and a strangely attractive fragrance without the immediately irritating effects of tear gas (of which many refugees, particularly in Khan Yhounis, are very familiar).
Of the known nerve gases, tabun is the most likely candidate - even if not, it was likely a potent anticholinesterase poison belonging to this family of organophosphate nerve poisons. Eyewitness testimony and news reports indicate that this gas was deliberately released into the homes, schoolyards, and streets of occupied Palestine, where the presence of civilian men, women, and children was a certainty. A film called "Gaza Strip" included the nerve gas allegations and claimed that "nearly 200 Palestinians" had been left hospitalized in Khan Younis alone. The film-maker discussed the content of his film and answered objections in Sept 2002 and gave an interview about it in 2003.
From the film: "The people we saw in the hospital, were mainly young people, exhibiting neurological manifestations: with hypertonic and choreoathetotic crisis in their limbs, spasms causing the body to stiffen, or worse: to go rigid in an arc position. This was followed by episodes of muscle relaxation: Nearly complete paralysis of the limbs, with hypertonia and also digestive pains like cramps and colics, and behavioral distresses; periods of extreme excitation, that kind of trouble." - Dr. Helen Bruzau - Medecins Sans Frontieres
On the West Bank, Jonathan Cook reported a sudden change in the symptoms from gas attacks in March 2001 and quoted a doctor in Hussein Hospital "reported a rapid increase in untreatable patients since the first such case was admitted in late February". The hospital's director said: "Until a few weeks ago it was simple to help tear gas victims. We gave them oxygen for 10 minutes and then discharged them. Now they arrive having fits, dizzy, sometimes unconscious, having severe problems breathing. Something has definitely changed." A paediatrician who has worked in the West Bank for 15 years, treating dozens of victims of gas inhalation had never seen such symptoms before. "Sliman's condition was certainly not one of anxiety. ... his symptoms were compatible with exposure to a strong poison. This suggests to me that the gas being used by Israel is no longer safe." The Israeli Defence Force said it used only standard CS gas, claiming the victims' complaints were caused by "anxiety."
These attacks began six days after the 7th March 2000 election of Ariel Sharon, an Israeli widely reviled for attacking unarmed civilians (eg Qibya, 48 years earlier, Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon and the events leading up to the Second Intifada) but before he'd officially formed a new Israeli government.
Israel signed but has not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. Israel recognises the Fourth Geneva Convention, but not its applicability to the Occupied Palestinian Territory of the West Bank (and formerly Gaza). Article 147 of the Geneva Convention stipulates that to "willingly cause [civilians] great suffering or serious injury to body or health" is a "grave breach", which, according to Article 146, requires all High Contracting Parties to "search for persons alleged to have committed or to have ordered to commit such grave breaches" and must "bring such person regardless of their nationality before their own courts".
Confirmation that the Israel Institute for Biological Research near Tel Aviv was receiving the components of nerve gas weapons came after El Al Flight LY 1862 crashed just outside Amsterdam on October 4, 1992. In April 1998 again Israel denied there had been dangerous chemicals on board, but in Oct 1998 it was revealed that the plane was carrying 10 tons of chemicals used in the most dangerous of the known nerve gases, Sarin. The shipment from Solkatronic Chemicals of Morrisville, Pennsylvania to IIBR was under US Department of Commerce licence, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to which the US, but not Israel, is party.
The IIBR facility has been involved in "an extensive effort to identify practical methods of synthesis for nerve gases (such as tabun, sarin, and VX) and other organophosphorus and fluorine compounds." In a 4 October 1998 interview with The London Sunday Times, a former IIBR biologist said "There is hardly a single known or unknown form of chemical or biological weapon ... which is not manufactured at the institute."
Israeli reaction to concerns
Earlier Toxic gas withdrawn, 1988
In 1988 the Jerusalem and Chicago based DataBase Project on Palestinian Human Rights (precursor to The Palestine Human Rights Information Center) claimed that, in the first five months of the First Intifada, at least 50 Palestinians died from exposure to a U.S.-made tear gas, and more than 150 pregnant women suffered miscarriages or fetal deaths. On 6th May 1988 US manufacturer stopped shipments of rubber ball grenades, 9.8 pounds in weight, that give off CS fumes as they bounce and roll along the ground. The supply suspension was linked to a UN official charging that Israeli tear gas was responsible for Palestinian miscarriages and deaths, a charge denied by Israel.
Known cases of false denial
Wikispooks has an entire family of articles on cases of Zionist Denial. Recent examples of false denial by Israel include organ-harvesting from dead Palestinians in 2009, see below. In the same year, the use by Israel of White Phosphorus (on civilians) was repeatedly alleged in the CCM and repeatedly denied by Israel despite widespread photographic evidence. Older examples include the famous Lavon Affair of 1954, only finally admitted when the, by then, very elderly perpetrators were decorated in 2005.
Possible 2011 repeat
In Sept 2011 Israeli media claimed that a car crash which killed Kiryat Arba settler, Arnold Palmer and his son, was caused by Palestinians throwing stones. 100s of settlers from the settlement of Al Khalil (Hebron) attended the funeral held in the H2, or Palestinian area of Hebron.
The International Solidarity Movement claimed that Israeli settlers could have used an unidentified nerve gas during an assault on Riyadh Abu Armile by settlers and the army on the evening of Sunday 25th Sept.
Armile was walking near the Ibrahimi Mosque with his uncle and 7 year old son at about 8pm when he was confronted by around 30 settlers who began throwing rocks at the family. Up to 200 settlers joined in the assault and the family attempted to take refuge in a nearby house. Settlers thereupon broke the windows and continued the attack. Armile's son sustained head injuries from rocks thrown by the settlers, and Armile’s uncle’s hand was broken. Armile told ISM that the attackers used some kind of chemical weapon that emitted a gas, causing symptoms very similar to those of a nerve agent. Armile said, "I couldn’t see and went into convulsions, saliva was coming out of my mouth and afterwards I couldn’t move my muscles for one hour."
Soldiers arrived at the scene and further beat Armile, then detained him for over an hour and refused access to the ambulance called to treat him. At 9:30PM he had to be carried to the ambulance, which took him immediately to the hospital in Hebron.
Armile stayed at the hospital overnight and was given 13 injections, though doctors were unsure how to treat him due to the unknown nature of the chemical, the Israeli army having confiscated the gas canister used by the settlers and they refused to give the doctors information about the chemical agent used. Medical staff warned Armile that he may suffer long-term health problems.
Possible 2004 repeat
Alleged to have come from a press release by Israel's 'Peace Bloc', Gush Shalom in 2004, was the following quote from clinics near Al-Zawiya (where there has in the past been tenacious nonviolent resistance to Israel's wall): "What the army used here yesterday was not tear gas. .... When we were still a long way off from where the bulldozers were working, they started shooting things like this one (holding up a dark green metal tube with the inscription "Hand and rifle grenade no.400" - in English). Black smoke came out. Anyone who breathed it lost consciousness immediately, more than a hundred people. They remained unconscious for nearly 24 hours. One is still unconscious, at Rapidiya Hospital in Nablus. They had high fever and their muscles became rigid. Some needed urgent blood transfusion. Now, is this a way of dispersing a demonstration, or is it chemical warfare?" The medical report (procured by the International Middle East Media Center - IMEMC), "the gas used against the protestors is not tear gas but possibly a nerve gas."
"The incident in Al-Zawiya appears to be the tenth attack by Israeli soldiers using an "unknown gas" against Palestinian civilians since early 2001. We have photographs of the canisters. We have film of victims suffering in the hospital. We have interviews with Palestinian and European doctors who have treated the victims. And we presumably have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of survivors. But we know nothing of their fate. Despite the evidence, we have not inquired".
Reporting difficulties increase
Reporting from Gaza became much more dangerous after the nerve-gas reports of 2001. In 2003 two Britons (Tom Hurndall March 2003 and James Miller May 2003) were shot dead and an American (Rachel Corrie March 2003) was crushed to death by a bulldozer. Before these killings and some distance away in the West Bank Briton Iain Hook, UN Chief of Reconstruction, was shot dead in Nov 2002. In 2005, BBC produced a 60 minute documentary entitled "When Killing is Easy aka Shooting the Messenger, Why are foreigners suddenly under fire in Israel?" described as a "meticulous examination" of the deaths of cameraman Miller, photography student Hurndall and activist Corrie. HRW examined the death of all three (and the disfigurement of Brian Avery) in a report "Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military’s Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing." Compensation was eventually paid to the families of all three Britons after international pressure and the killer of Tom Hurndall (a Bedouin) was convicted and jailed for 8 years by Israel. The parents of Rachel Corrie have attempted to take her case through the Israeli courts, latest in Feb 2010 but US courts have repeatedly refused to rule on her case.
1999 poison gas claim, unsubstantiated
In Nov 1999, Yassir Arafat's wife Suha Arafat made a statement that has usually been translated from the Arabic as: "Our people have been subjected to the daily and extensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces, which has led to an increase in cancer cases among women and children." Hilary Clinton was present and commented that "We do not believe that ... inflammatory statements [are] helpful to the peace process." No evidence for this claim was ever presented, though it could refer to the suffocating effect of tear-gas released in confined places.
1997 nerve toxin assassination attempt
On September 25, 1997 Israel made an attempt to kill Khalid Mashal, a Hamas leader in Amman, Jordan with a lethal nerve toxin, levofentanyl. The agents were acting on the orders of Benjamin Netanyahu and carried Canadian passports.
The assassins were arrested and Jordan's King Hussein demanded that Benjamin Netanyahu provide an antidote to the toxin. Netanyahu tried to refuse but President Bill Clinton intervened and Mashal's life was saved. The Israeli agents were released in exchange for the Shaykh Yasin, founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, and other prisoners held by Israel.
1983 West Bank fainting epidemic, determined psychological
The 1983 West Bank fainting epidemic occurred in late March 1983 with 943 hospitalisations of Palestinian schoolgirls and a smaller number of female Israeli soldiers in a number of West Bank towns over a period of some 10 days. Palestinians accused Israel of testing nerve gas while Israel arrested some Palestinians for "political agitation".
This incident has an entry in Wikipedia, which determined that the cause was psychological, with most sources saying this was at least part of the problem. Wikispooks has no further information.
Main Article: Zionist_denials#1948_Biological_Warfare
The use of Biological Warfare by Israel is quite widely recognised but is also denied.
Wikipedia connection and bias
This article is based on an article swiftly deleted from Wikipedia in July 2008 in accordance with these arguments and this AfD (Article for Deletion), to which has been added a little additional material.
The Wikipedia "deletionists" were correct in one sense, it is true there were few CCM sources reporting that Israel had used nerve-gas, however, it was misleading to claim that all such reports were "lacking in editorial over-sight" and hence non-reliable per WP:RS policy on "reliable sources", sub-section questionable sources. In fact, CNN did report the accusations on 15th Feb 2000 but only dismissively, mentioning reports that "about 80 Palestinians had been admitted to a Gaza hospital suffering from the effects of poison gas". CNN attributed this story to Arafat in the context of accusations he'd made that Israel "employed depleted uranium munitions against Palestinian demonstrators". Israeli Communications Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is quoted as saying on Israeli TV that the reports were "incorrect and false." Meanwhile, the contemporaneous reports cited here come from credible observers, consistent with each other in most obvious details. It should be noted that collusion would have been difficult, since communication and passage between Gaza and the West Bank was very restricted, even in 2001.
- Arafat accuses Israel of using poison gas CNN February 15, 2001.
- Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, February 8–14, 2001. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
- Shelling of Khan Younis immediately preceding first attack, 300 made homeless Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, February 8 - 14, 2001.
- "about 130 patients suffering from gas inhalation from February 12" Gaza Archives: Feature Israeli Army Fires Highly Toxic Quantities of Tear Gas at Civilians in Khan Yunis, Gaza Palestine Monitor, February 15, 2001.
- CBRNE - Nerve Agents, V-series: Ve, Vg, Vm, Vx.
- MediaMonitors, the Israeli poison gas attacks: A preliminary investigation.
- Response to criticism of the film "Gaza Strip".
- FSTV Interviews James Longley, Director of film "Gaza Strip".
- Clips from the film "Gaza Strip", Dr. Helen Bruzau of Medecins Sans Frontieres describes symptoms (French, with sub-titles) starting at 5mins 55secs.
- Vale of Tears Jonathan Cook reports on gas attacks in the West Bank.
- Traces of poison Israel's Dark History revealed.
- Israel’s Anti-Civilian Weapons The Link, Americans for Middle East Understanding, Inc.
- Database Project on Palestinian Human Rights, "Intifada Martyrs: The First Five Months" (Chicago: DPPHR, May 27,1988). Citation by www.covertaction.org at Israel Wages Chemical Warfare With American Tear Gas
- A UN official's charge that Israeli tear gas was responsible for Palestinian miscarriages and deaths has been denied by Israel. The U.S. manufacturer has stopped shipments. - Ed. (editors note) "candid conversation with the p.l.o. chief" Playboy interview with Yasir Arafat. Geocities. 1988.
- Israeli military conceals information about possible nerve agent used by illegal, violent settlers. International Solidarity Movement - 26 Sept 2011
- "the gas used against the protestors is not tear gas but possibly a nerve gas" Israel's Chemical Weapons, Anti-war.com July 8, 2004.
- Dispersing Demonstrations - Or Chemical Warfare? "On June 10th, 2004, the two clinics in Al-Zawiya treated 130 patients ... a high number of cases of [tetany], spasm in legs and hands, connected to the nervous system. Pupils were dilated… Other symptoms included shock, semi-consciousness, hyperventilation, irritation and sweating." James Brooks, The Electronic Intifada, 12 July 2004.
- When Killing is Easy 2005 BBC Educational and Documentary Programmes on DVD, Synopsis.
- Human Rights Watch June 2005 Vol. 17 Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military’s Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing. HRW May 2006.
- Israeli ex-soldier who killed UK peace activist Tom Hurndall in the Gaza Strip has been jailed for eight years BBC, 11th Aug 2005.
- Rachel Corrie's family bring civil suit over human shield's death in Gaza Parents want case to highlight events that led to American activist's death under Israeli army bulldozer. Guardian 23 Feb 2010.
- Facing Down the Law on Bus 148 U.S. courts have repeatedly refused to hear damages claims involving atrocities committed by Israeli authorities (see the Rachel Corrie decisions). Huffington Post. 16th Nov 2011.
- Suha Arafat, 1999: Our people have been subjected to ... use of poisonous gas.
- Hillary Clinton criticises Mrs Arafat, 1999 "We do not believe that ... inflammatory statements [are] helpful to the peace process."
- Newsreal: Bibi the bungler Salon October 10, 2007
- The Khaled Mishaal Interview (1 of 7) Al Hayat December 5, 2003
- McGeough, Paul (2009) Kill Khalid – The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas. Quartet Books. Page 184.
- Netanyahu in spotlight as assassination plot unravels CNN 8th Mar 2008.
- Ciechanover Report on Mish'al Affair. Fas.org. Retrieved on 2011-08-17.
- Israel maintains innocence in illness bout, The Associated Press carried in The Lakeland Ledger, April 1 1983
- Reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) released 50 years after the incident revealed that the Israeli forces, at the siege of Acre in 1948, released typhoid bacteria into the city's water supply.
- Arafat accuses Israel of using poison gas CNN February 15, 2001.
- Interview with James Longley conducted by Jane Adas about the making of Gaza Strip in Framework, The Journal of Cinema and Media, Volume 43, No. 2 Fall 2002.
- Transcripts of selected interviews with witnesses during the week of February 12, 2001 in Khan Younis Refugee Camp. Recorded for the documentary film, "Gaza Strip".
- Map of the filming locations of "Gaza Strip".