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Terrorism and Collective Punishment

Israel's lab in Palestine

Mel Frykberg
Al-Ahram Weekly
April 26 - May 2 2007

Disturbing reports allege that Israel is using Gaza as a field to experiment its new lethal weapons, reports Mel Frykberg.

strange wound
See More Photos (WARNING: extremely graphic)

Doctors in Gaza have been reporting strange wounds on the bodies of innocent bystanders and those targeted by drones. These wounds consist of many small holes, often invisible to X-rays, and burns caused by heat so intense that many cases have required amputation because of the extensive burning.

Habas Al-Wahid, head of the emergency centre at the Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza city told the journalists that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies "as if a saw was used to cut through the bone." But there was no evidence of ordinary metal shrapnel in or near the wounds.

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Juma Saka said that on examination of the wounds, the doctors had found a powder on the victim's bodies and in their internal organs. Afterwards they removed the microscopic particles which turned out to be carbon and tungsten.

"The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and this is likely what caused the injuries," Saka said. Complicating the issue was the death of many patients several days afterwards, although they appeared to recover initially. Accusations that Israel is using Gaza and its inhabitants as a laboratory to test new military weapons, have been made from several quarters.

"We don't know what it means – new weapons or something added to a previous weapon," said Saied Joudda, deputy director at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

To back up their personal experiences, a group of doctors compiled extensive documentary evidence of the extent of the wounds, which occurred specifically in the legs. In other parts of the body, metallic fragments, bigger than the size of the small wounds, were found.

"In our opinion, Israel has also used chemical weapons, such as numerous cases demonstrate, documented cases, with persons having extremely serious burns to their internal organs in the absence of external wounds," said Mouawia, a cardio-vascular surgeon and director-general of emergency services in Gaza.

An investigating team of Italian journalists produced a documentary on Italian state television's satellite channel, RAI News 24, alleging that Israel used dense inert metal explosives (DIME) against Palestinian targets in July and August of last year. This followed journalists taking samples of the microscopic explosives from Gaza and having them tested in a laboratory in Italy.

Carmela Vaccaio, a doctor at the University of Parma, examined samples sent by the Italian reporters from the Gaza Strip and found a high concentration of carbon, as well as copper, aluminium and tungsten, which she considered to be unusual materials. In her report she concluded, "these findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question is DIME. The same investigating team also exposed the US military's use of white phosphorus against civilians during attacks on Falluja in Iraq.

Similar accusations were made against Israel during the Lebanon war, when the Jewish state originally denied using phosphorous against Lebanese civilians. But several days later, following the explosive allegations of the Italian journalists and with overwhelming evidence, Israeli cabinet minister, Jacob Edery confirmed that the Israeli military had in fact made use of phosphorous shells.

Israel is accused of dropping more than a million cluster bombs in the south of Lebanon just a few days before the ceasefire. Since then there have been several Lebanese deaths on a daily basis after people accidentally trod on unexploded shells.

According to military experts, DIME is a carbon-encased missile that shatters on impact into minuscule splinters, at the same time setting off an explosive that shoots blades of energy-charged, heavy metal tungsten alloy (HMTA) powder, such as cobalt and nickel or iron, with a carbon fibre casing. It turns to dust on impact, as it loses inertia very quickly due to air resistance, burning and destroying through a very precise angulation everything within a four-metre range, as opposed to the shrapnel which results from the fragmentation of a metal casing. The designation of the metal as "inert" is due to the metal's non-involvement in the blast, rather than the metal being chemically or biologically inert.

This technology is one of a new range of "low collateral damage" or LCD weapons designed to minimise the damage to nearby property, by confining its increased lethal effects to a restricted space. So it is "ideal for densely populated areas" and "helping the warfighter to prevent the loss of public support," according to its enthusiastic proponents.

Israeli military spokesmen have refused to acknowledge or deny the use of DIME in Gaza, but simply stated that Israel only uses weapons that are legal under international law. The catch is that as DIME is a new weapon, the jury is still out as it still has to be assessed.

However, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a major-general in the Israel Air Force, and former head of the army's weapons- development programme didn't deny that the Israelis had used DIME in Gaza but went on to explain its credentials.

"The idea behind DIME is to allow the accurate pin-pointing of targets without causing collateral damage to innocent bystanders. This is a technology that allows the striking of very small targets."

This would conveniently fit in with Israel's policy of targeted assassinations, however as the Gaza Strip is so densely populated with nearly 1.5 million people crammed into an area 10 by six miles, the chances of innocent bystanders being hit is very high.

In addition to being seriously maimed, injured and killed, due to the carcinogenic effects of DIME, the number of Palestinians becoming afflicted with cancer will multiply in the long term, in addition to their environment being extensively damaged should the Israelis continue to use this new weapon with impunity.

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The History of Terrorism
Videos & Multimedia

British TV Documentary – Dispatches: The Killing Zone

VIDEO: Palestinians Document Settler Violence

VIDEO: West Bank attack filmed

Video – Gaza: A humanitarian implosion

Video: Old Palestinian Man Describes Being Shot

Video – The Easiest Targets: The Israeli Policy of Strip Searching Women and Children

Audio Interview – Psychology of Suicide Bombings

Video – Soldiers Explode a Portion of a Palestinian Home, Killing the Mother

Video – Soldiers Force a Palestinian to Play Violin at Roadblock

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Additional Resources

The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion

Back to a Routine of Torture – Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees during Arrest, Detention and Interrogation – September 2001 - April 2003

Amnesty International – Israeli Settlers Wage Campaign of Intimidation

Booklet – ‘No Exit’

Amnesty International – Under the Rubble


Public Committee Against Torture in Israel

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