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Silwan studies Israeli use of expired weapons

Sept. 30, 2010 2:59 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 2, 2010 11:26 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Silwan residents will launch an investigation into the use of expired and oxidized tear-gas canisters by the Israeli military which locals say pose health risks.

A news conference was held at the Silwan protest tent in East Jerusalem on Wednesday, where a local committee said a preliminary investigation had been undertaken after residents reported an increase in symptoms of fatigue, high fever, vomiting, and shortness of breath in the wake of recent clashes in the neighborhood.

Tear gas was deployed by Israeli soldiers and border police during a series of clashes that began on 22 September, when a local man was buried, killed by a settler guard earlier in the day. Clashes broke out steadily on a near daily-basis after the event, spurred on by an Israeli lock-down that prohibited movement between Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Organizer of the investigation Fakhri Abu Diab said that astounded medics transferring Silwan residents to hospital had sounded the alarm, assessing several with signs of poisoning.

Volunteers collected tear-gas canisters from the area for inspection, and noted that they were past their expiry dates by more than 12 months, and in some cases the release valves had oxidized.

As low-grade chemical weapons, tear-gas canisters generally expire after five or six years, often being relegated to training exercises following their past due date, and no longer used against people.

"The expired and damaged grenades were deployed in and around people's homes," Abu Diab said, while co-committee member and head of the Jerusalem Information Center Muhammad Sadeq accused Israeli forces of using the people of Jerusalem as a laboratory to test unsafe chemicals, citing the use of white phosphorous weapons in the Gaza Strip in January 2009.

An international committee to investigate the use of expired chemical weapons must be organized, Sadeq said.

Vice-President of the Federation of Arab Medics in Palestine Najeh Hawareen said the committee was looking into the possibility of taking the issue to the Israeli courts. He said decisions in a Tel Aviv court in 2005 found tear gas to be a poisonous substance causing debilitating harm in some cases, adding that the Supreme Court in Israel later confirmed the decision, which he said opened the door to a case against the use of teargas in civilian areas, particularly if it were expired.

"Israeli forces deploy dangerous weapons toward civilians randomly," Jawad Siyam, the director of Wad Hilwa Information Center added.

The devices collected would undergo tests, the committee said, and proceed to legal action as necessary.
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