Consequences of Israeli Chemical Weapons

By Richard Lightbown | 14 March 2011

Richard Lightbown argues that Israel’s use of depleted uranium, white phosphorus and other toxic metals in its war on the people of the Gaza Strip has put the whole of the Strip’s population and its environment – air, soil, groundwater and possibly seawater – at risk of serious long-term injury and contamination.

Press TV on 4 March 2011 reported that cancer cases in Gaza had increased by 30 per cent, and that there was a link between the occurrence of the disease and residence in areas that had been badly hit by Israeli bombing. Zekra Ajour from the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights told the channel that Gaza had been a testing ground for illegal weapons.

Birth defects

On 20 December 2009 Al-Dameer had published another paper in Arabic on the increase in the number of babies born in Gaza with birth defects, thought to be the result of radioactive and toxic materials from Operation Cast Lead.1 The birth defects included incomplete hearts and malformations of the brain. During August, September and October 2008 the number of cases had been 27. In the comparable months in 2009 the numbers had risen to 47. There was a similar rise in aborted foetuses. Al-Dameer had called for scientific monitoring throughout the Gaza Strip to obtain statistics on deformed foetus cases relating to the intentional use of internationally banned weapons.

Similar dramatic increases in birth defects over a longer period have been recorded in Iraq and have been linked to widespread use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons. (It is reported that local midwives no longer look forward to births as they don’t know what is going to come out.)

Depleted uranium

“Depleted uranium burns at almost 1200 degrees Celsius. (TNT by comparison burns at 576 degrees Celsius.) At this temperature the fire vaporizes any metals in the target which in combination with uranium are released into the air in aerosol form. After deposition the aerosols have the potential to contaminate groundwater.”

Although the epidemiologist Professor Alastair Hay told the BBC in March 2010 that it was difficult to suggest any particular cause for the trend,2 scientific data has been published which contradicts his opinion. A review in Environmental Health in 20053 concluded by saying:

Regarding the teratogenicity of parental prenatal exposure to DU aerosols, the evidence, albeit imperfect, indicates a high probability of substantial risk. Good science indicates that depleted uranium weapons should not be manufactured or exploded.

When later asked in the same interview about white phosphorus, Prof. Hay had replied;

…phosphorus is an essential element in our bodies and so you would I think have to ingest a huge amount to cause any particular problem. But there has been no investigation anywhere that I am aware of to link phosphorus with health problems…

Apparently the professor has not read the Goldstone Report of the previous year which states in paragraph 896:

Medical staff reported to the mission how even working in the areas where the phosphorus had been used made them feel sick, their lips would swell and they would become extremely thirsty and nauseous.

The toxicity of phosphorus is also recorded in a report by New York medical staff:4

Oral ingestion of white phosphorus in humans has been demonstrated to result in pathologic changes to the liver and kidneys. The ingestion of a small quantity of white phosphorus can cause gastrointestinal complaints such as nausea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. Individuals with a history of oral ingestion have been noted to pass phosphorus-laden stool (“smoking stool syndrome”). The accepted lethal dose is 1 mg/kg, although the ingestion of as little as 15 mg has resulted in death.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that breathing white phosphorus for long periods causes “phossy jaw”, a condition in which there is poor wound healing of the mouth and breakdown of the jawbone.5

Depleted uranium in US-supplied bunker-buster bombs

Evidence of the use of depleted uranium against Gaza is tenuous and Goldstone merely recorded in paragraph 907 that it had received allegations which it had not further investigated. Much of this evidence came from Action des citoyens pour le désarmement nucléaire (ACDN: Citizens Action for Nuclear Disarmament). Their report of July 2009 hypothesizes that the GBU-39 bunker-buster bomb is packed with 75 kilogram of depleted uranium. (A UNEP report also ambiguously refers to bunker-buster bombs containing depleted uranium.) The US delivery of 1,000 of these bombs to Israel arrived in early December 2008 shortly before the start of the war. The GBU-39 is considered one of the world’s most precise bombs and Boeing, the manufacturer, claims that the bomb will penetrate three feet of steel-reinforced concrete. (UNEP suggests that it can penetrate reinforced concrete to depths ranging from 1.8 to over 6 metres.) Boeing’s patent on the weapon mentions depleted uranium.6

It is not known how many bunker-buster bombs were used against Gaza but it seems reasonable to assume that the number could run into hundreds. It is thought that they were used mostly in the Philadelphia corridor against the tunnels. Desmond Travers, the former Irish army officer who was a member of the Goldstone Commission, would only say that depleted uranium may have been used during the war, although he did agree that it would have been well suited for attacking the tunnels where maximum penetration would have been desired.7 He was also in agreement with ACDN that the use of below-ground targets would have considerably reduced the levels of aerosol uranium that was dispersed into the air.

Col Raymond Lane, who is chief instructor of ordnance with the Irish armed forces, gave testimony to the Goldstone Commission on weapons used in the Gaza conflict. He told the commission that he had no expertise of depleted uranium and so had not investigated it. He gave no reason for his failure to bring in specialist expertise to investigate the subject.8

In April 2009 Jean-François Fechino from ACDN was part of a four-person team which went to Gaza for the Arab Commission for Human Rights. Samples that the team brought back were analysed by a specialist laboratory which identified carcinogens: depleted uranium, caesium, asbestos dust, tungsten and aluminium oxide. Thorium oxide was also found, which is radioactive, as are depleted uranium and caesium. The analysis also identified phosphates and copper, along with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are a health hazard, especially to children, asthmatics and elders.9

Depleted uranium burns at almost 1200 degrees Celsius. (TNT by comparison burns at 576 degrees Celsius.)10 At this temperature the fire vaporizes any metals in the target which in combination with uranium are released into the air in aerosol form. After deposition the aerosols have the potential to contaminate groundwater. (The Gaza aquifer, which is the Strip’s only water source, is also connected to ground water supplies in Egypt, although water only flows into Gaza from Israel.11)

There is empirical documentation that the aerosols can travel up to 42 Km and theoretical documentation that they can travel further. Sderot is about 43 kilometres from the Philadelphia corridor and less than five kilometres from Beit Hanoun. In consequence, it may be that the activities of Israel’s air force have created a greater threat to the Israeli city than all of the 8,000 well-publicized rockets from Gaza ever have.

Depleted uranium accumulation has been recorded in the bone, kidney, reproductive system, brain and lung. It is carcinogenic, toxic to the kidneys, damaging to cellular DNA and causes malformations to an embryo or foetus.

White phosphorus

“Doctors found that when they removed bandages applied to a wound that still contained fragments of white phosphorous, smoke would come from the wound since the chemical continues to burn as long as it is in contact with oxygen.”

Although an Israeli army spokesman told CNN on 7 January 2009, “I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used.” the chemical had been used by Israeli forces since the beginning of the war.12 The Goldstone Report stated that Israeli sources later claimed their forces had stopped using white phosphorous on 7 January 2009 because of international concerns. This was also untrue as there is evidence that it had been used after that date. Goldstone declared the Israeli armed forces to have been “systematically reckless” in using white phosphorous in built-up areas (paragraphs 884, 886 and 890).

Difficulty in detecting the extent of damage to tissue and organs gave serious problems to medical staff trying to treat white phosphorus injuries. Several patients died as a result. Doctors found that when they removed bandages applied to a wound that still contained fragments of white phosphorous, smoke would come from the wound since the chemical continues to burn as long as it is in contact with oxygen. White phosphorous sticks to tissue so that all flesh and sometimes muscle around the burn would have to be cut out. The substance is also highly toxic (Goldstone paragraphs 892/4/5/6).

An article published in The Lancet included photographs of a young man who was admitted to hospital in Gaza with white phosphorous burns on 30 per cent of his body. The day after admission smoke was noticed coming from the wounds and the patient was rapidly transferred to the operating room for removal of dead tissue and removal of white phosphorus particles. During the operation a particle of the chemical was dislodged and caused a superficial burn on a nurse’s neck. The patient survived.13

Col Lane testified that although white phosphorus gave the best quality of smoke for military purposes it was “horrible stuff” and the Irish army had stopped using it 20 years previously. He recounted how the British army had sea-dumped quantities of the material off the coast of southwest. Scotland in the 1950s, some of which had been washed up on the coast of Ireland by a storm in 2007. It had ignited on drying (the colonel had witnessed this himself) and in one instance a child had suffered burns as a result.

Other toxic materials

Mass spectrometry analysis conducted by the New Weapons Research Group (NWRG) found aluminium, titanium, strontium, barium, cobalt and mercury in biopsies taken from white phosphorus wounds at Shifaa Hospital, Gaza. (Aluminium, barium and mercury have potential for lethal and intoxicating effects; aluminium and mercury can cause chronic pathologies over time; mercury is carcinogenic for humans; cobalt can cause mutations; and aluminium is fetotoxic, i.e. injurious to foetuses.)14

White phosphorus bombs are built with alternating sectors of white phosphorus and aluminium. Analysis by NWRC of the powder from a shell near Al-Wafa Hospital in Gaza also found high levels of molybdenum, tungsten and mercury. Tungsten and mercury are carcinogenic, while molybdenum is toxic to sperms.

In a report appropriately entitled “Gaza Strip, soil has been contaminated due to bombings: population in danger”, NWRG also conducted analyses of two craters caused by bombs in 2006 and two others by bombs in 2009. In the 2006 craters they identified tungsten, mercury and molybdenum, while in the 2009 craters at Tufah they discovered molybdenum, cadmium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, copper and zinc. Cadmium and some nickel and manganese compounds are carcinogenic.15

NWRG has further conducted research of hair samples from 95 children resident in heavily bombed areas of Gaza. Again using mass spectrometry the study identified the carcinogenic or toxic metals chromium, cadmium, cobalt, tungsten and uranium. One wounded individual also had unusually high levels of lead. The study found the results alarming and considered the levels could be pathogenic in situations of chronic exposure. Thirty-nine of the examinees were recommended for further checks.16

DIME weapons, soil contamination and cancer

“DIME bombs cause a high proportion of amputations particularly of legs, while patients often suffered internal burns as well.”

It has been reported that soil in the area of a DIME (dense inert metal explosive) bomb blast may remain barren for an indefinite period of time because of contamination from heavy metal tungsten alloy.17 The same material in trial rapidly caused tumours in 100 per cent of rats when used at both low and high doses, with the tumours spreading to the lungs, necessitating euthanasia.18

DIME weapons were first used against Gaza by Israeli drones in the summer of 2006, when Palestinian medical personnel reported that it significantly increased the fatality rate among victims.19 Shortly after the DIME weapons were also trialled during the first week of the war in Lebanon in July 2006.

The Goldstone Commission was unable to confirm that DIME munitions were used by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead. Col Lane had told the commission in testimony that there was no actual proof. He then went on to testify that he had been given samples in Gaza which analysis in Dublin had shown to contain DIME materials consisting mostly of tungsten with traces of iron and sulphur. He was of the opinion that ordnance had been used that had some sort of DIME component. He also mentioned that he had read of unusual amputations, and that tungsten and cobalt would have this effect. Weaponry had been found with DIME components which was capable of amputation and there are Palestinian amputees, yet neither Col Lane nor the commission was prepared to say that DIME weapons had been used by Israeli forces.

DIME bombs cause a high proportion of amputations particularly of legs, while patients often suffered internal burns as well. The bombs consist of powdered tungsten alloy mixed with an explosive material inside a casing which disintegrates on explosion. The tungsten powder tears apart anything it hits including soft tissue and bone, causing very severe injuries. Tungsten alloy particles, described as “finely powdered micro-shrapnel”, are too small to be extracted from the victim’s body and are highly carcinogenic. (Goldstone, paragraphs 902-4)

No weapons fragments can be found from DIME bombs with standard diagnostic resources, despite the indication of heavy metals from this type of injuries. Mass spectrometry analyses by NWRG of biopsies from amputation injuries revealed aluminium, titanium, copper, strontium, barium, cobalt, mercury, vanadium, caesium, tin, arsenic, manganese, rubidium, cadmium, chromium, zinc and nickel. Doctors reported that it was difficult to determine the extent of dead tissue (which it is vital to remove). This resulted in higher rates of deep infection, subsequent amputation and higher mortality.20

The wide range of heavy metals discovered by analysis in casualties, residents and soil in Gaza suggests that other unidentified weapons may have also been trialled. (The Sensor Fuzed Weapon has been suggested as one such technological perversion that the Israeli forces may have used.21)

The whole Gaza population and their environment, including generations yet to be conceived, have been put at risk of serious long-term injury from heavy metal pollution of the air, soil and groundwater (and possibly the seawater too), while the causal pollution is likely to cross state borders into Egypt and even into Israel. Reassurances of the legitimate and responsible use and the reduced lethality of weapons (an opinion in part shared by Col Lane) are callous and inadequate in the context of the dangerous reality that has resulted. Meanwhile, the impacts of Israel’s illegal assaults on Gaza remain ignored and its deeds uncensored by the wider international community.


Notes

1. Kawther Salam, 29 December 2009; Abortions, Cancer, Diseases and… in Gaza; Intifada-Palestine. www.intifada-palestine.com/2009/12/abortions-cancer-diseases-and-in-gaza/

2. BBCNews, 4 March 2010; Falluja Doctors Report Rise in Birth Defects. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8548707.stm

3. Rita Hindin, Doug Brugge and Bindu Panikkar; Teratogenicity of depleted uranium aerosols: A review from an epidemiological perspective; Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2005, 4:17 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-4-17. www.ehjournal.net/content/4/1/17

4. Lisandro Irizarry, Mollie V Williams, Geri M Williams and José Eric Díaz-Alcalá, 21 October 2009; CBRNE – Incendiary Agents, White Phosphorus. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/833585-overview

5. UNEP, 2007; Lebanon Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment, p 149.

6. ACDN, 4 July 2009; Report on the Use of Radioactive Weapons in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. www.newweapons.org/files/ACDN%20Gaza%20report%20updated%204Jul2009%201.pdf

7. Dr Hana Chehata, 9 March 2010; Disturbing Findings of Toxic Uranium Levels in Gaza; Middle East Monitor. http://preview.tinyurl.com/6cdf55k

8. Video accessed from http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=413

9. Palestinian Telegraph, 24 May 2009; Israel Used Depleted Uranium in Offensive on Gaza. www.paltelegraph.com/opinions/editorials/935-israel-used-depleted-uranium-in-offensive-on-gaza.html

10. Sister Rosalie Bertell; Depleted Uranium in the Human Body: Sr Rosalie Bertell, PhD. www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgQ79-oDX2o

11. www.standwithus.com/FLYERS/WaterFlyer.pdf

12. Human Rights Watch, 10 January 2009; Q & A on Israel’s Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza. www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/01/10/q-israel-s-use-white-phosphorus-gaza

13. http://tinyurl.com/287wxo9

14. Sobhi Skaik, Nafiz Abu-Shaban, Nasser Abu-Shaban, Mario Barbieri, Maurizio Barbieri, Umberto Giani, Paola Manduca, 31 July 2010; Metals Detected by ICP/MS in Wound Tissue of War Injuries Without Fragments in Gaza. www.newweapons.org/files/1860524319368107_article.pdf

15. NWRC, 17 December 2009; Gaza Strip, soil has been contaminated due to bombings: population in danger. www.newweapons.org/files/pressrelease_nwrc_20091216_eng.pdf

16. NWRC, 17 March 2010; Metals Detected in Palestinian Children’s Hair Suggest Environmental Contamination. http://www.newweapons.org/?q=node/112

17. James Brooks, 6 December 2006; US and Israel Targeting DNA in Gaza? The DIME Bomb: Yet Another Genotoxic Weapon, Part II. Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding. http://tinyurl.com/6kq6sd9

18. John F. Kalinich, et al, 15 February 2005; Embedded Weapons-Grade Tungsten Alloy Shrapnel Rapidly Induces Metastatic High-Grade Rhabdomysoarcomas in F344 Rats; ehponline.org www.afrri.usuhs.mil/www/outreach/pdf/tungsten_cancer.pdf

19. James Brooks, 5 December 2006; The DIME Bomb: Yet Another Genotoxic weapon, Part 1; Al-Jazeera. www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27a/308.html

20. David Halpin, 14 August 2006; Are New weapons Being Used in Gaza and Lebanon; Electronic Intifada. http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5528.shtml

21. James Brooks, 5 December 2006; The DIME Bomb: Yet Another Genotoxic weapon, Part III; Al-Jazeera. www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/oldsite/article.asp?ID=5648

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 22.03.2011)

Artists Against Apartheid releases new CD

Artists Against Apartheid has released a new album! This album features artists of different genres who have donated a song to the project, resulting in a virtual CD that can be downloaded in a variety of audio formats. Standard quality is 320 K Mp3, but you can also get it in FLAC, AAC, Ogg Vorbis or ALAC.

You can download the album for £8 from Artists Against Apartheid. This is a project which donates all its funds raised to Global Projects for Palestine. The funds are then sent to projects in Gaza working with orphans, women and children in the camps of Gaza via the Help initiative program in Gaza.

This song collection features 15 artists who have donated their song: FLeCK, Hælu, Abu Nurah, The Nine Invisibles, Rich Siegel, Secret Archives of the Vatican, Celt Islam (who also produced the album), Kieran Taylor, Digikal Roots, RoLaZ, TepiD SpY, AbdalKarim Gossland, Agit Sound, The Analogue Fakir and IRAP.

Visit the website now and get the album for only £8, and there are plenty of options for you to transfer the money, including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.

Since this album is titled ‘Artists Against Apartheid Vol.1’, the makers probably have plans to release another album. Encourage them by making this work, and don’t forget, by buying the album you are supporting people living in Gaza !

(www.docjazz.com / 22.03.2011)

Collegevoorzitter sluit stilteruimte

Collegevoorzitter Karel van der Toorn heeft de stilteruimte in de kelder van de Leeuwenburg laten sluiten. Uit beelden van omroep PowNed blijkt dat de ruimte werd gebruikt als gebedsruimte.
Tegenover het programma zei Van der Toorn afgelopen vrijdag dat de HvA niet gelooft dat het ‘haar verantwoordelijkheid is om gebedsruimtes te creëren’. Op beelden die PowNews heeft uitgezonden van de betreffende ruimte, K.-3.24, is te zien dat er gebeden wordt. Van der Toorn: ‘Toen we dat hoorden hebben we maatregelen genomen om daar een eind aan te maken.’

Vorig jaar liet Van der Toorn al weten geen voorstander te zijn een gebedsruimtes op de hogeschool. ‘Wij zijn immers een openbare onderwijsinstelling. Dat betekent dat alle overtuigingen zich bij ons op hun gemak moeten voelen. Daarom wil ik geen aparte religieuze ruimte. Wel een algemeen toegankelijke ruimte voor iedereen, daar heb ik veel minder moeite mee.’

(havanaweb.hva.nl / 22.03.2011)

Support people of Libya

Via deze site, kan men hulp bieden voor het Libische volk.
Geef om het Libische volk, geef om hun kinderen, geef om hun toekomst

En help de vele gewonden die vielen voor het laten horen van hun stem! Doneer op rekening: 53 38 77 466 (ABN AMRO) IBAN: NL02ABNA0533877466 Swiftcode: ABNANL2A Of heeft u medische hulpmiddelen die u kunt doneren? Bel dan voor informatie: 06 – 51 60 07 45

blog post by Omar Ghraieb in Gaza

Gaza, March 22, Israeli warplanes (F16s) launched a vast air raid on different targets in the Gaza Strip which led to the injury of 19 civilians. Medics spokesman, Adham Abu Salmeyah, reported that all of them were minor injuries, adding that among those who got injured were7 children and two women.

He added that 10 injuries reached “Shefa” hospital in Gaza City, while 9 other injuries arrived at the Kamal Odwan hospital. He also pointed out that “Hijazi” clinic, north of Gaza City, was heavily hit by one of the raids and got really damaged, pointing out that it’s the only clinic that provides health services for more than 10 thousand in the north-west area.

IOF spokesman claimed that the Israeli army launched its attacks last night on several targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the rockets launched by the resistance forces in Gaza, which fell recently on the sites and surrounding towns near Gaza.

He claimed in a statement published by the website of “Yediot Ahronot” Hebrew newspaper, that the raids targeted two tunnels of the resistance, and two sites for manufacturing explosives and one weapons storage, the same lame excuse that they always use to raid Gaza as if they need a reason to bomb us.

A series of air raids by Israeli “F-16” warplanes bombed the site of the Palestinian police that belongs to the De-Facto government in Gaza in the area of “Al Twam” north-west of Gaza City, but it was empty at the time of bombing. They also bombed a plastics factory east of Gaza City, wounding three civilians, including two children sustained minor injuries.

In addition, they also bombed a metal workshop in Gaza City, causing severe damage, Israeli warplanes also targeted with two missiles a location near the residential buildings of “Maqqousi”, west of Gaza City.

Israeli armed drones fired a missile on a free land east of Khan Younis, but it did not explode, so after about three minutes they fired another missile on the same location which led to a huge explosion. They also fired more missiles on other empty lands in Khan Younis.

The Apache armed helicopter targeted early yesterday an auto repair shop east of Gaza City, causing a huge material damage in it.

Gaza’s sky has recently experienced a heavy presence of Israeli different aircrafts and warplanes, Gaza also has been regularly bombed recently. Also an extensive militant activity was witnessed by Israeli tanks near Gaza’s borders, with sporadic shooting every now and then.

What awaits Gaza? A new war? Or only daily militant operations? I guess only time will tell.