bilin - Reuters - December 31 2010
Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists run away from tear gas in the West Bank village of Bil'in, December 31, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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The Israel Defense Forces said on Monday that the medical report on the death of a Palestinian woman said to have been killed at a West Bank protest contains significant inconsistencies regarding the circumstances of her death.

Bil'in residents claim that Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36 died after inhaling tear gas fired by IDF soldiers during a protest against the West Bank security barrier on Friday.

Military sources said, however, that there was no evidence that Abu Rahmah even participated in Friday's demonstration against the security barrier in Bil'in - nor that she died from inhaling tear gas.

Following repeated requests from Israel's defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority on Monday turned over the medical report on Abu Rahma's death. IDF officials say the medical report contradicts the family's version of events.

According to information obtained by Haaretz from Palestinian medical sources, in the weeks before Abu Rahmah's death she was taking drugs prescribed for a medical condition. It is not known whether these drugs, combined with the tear gas and the "skunk bombs" used by the soldiers, could have caused her death.

Her family says Abu Rahmah's death was caused by the Israel Defense Forces' use of a particularly lethal type of tear gas, but they cannot explain why other demonstrators affected by the tear gas did not need medical care.

Eyewitnesses told Haaretz that the tear gas had an immediate and dramatic effect on Abu Rahmah, who within a few minutes after exposure went into convulsions, began foaming at the mouth and lost consciousness.

Abu Rahmah's brother Samir said that for several weeks his sister had complained of bad headaches, mainly near one ear. He said she also had dizzy spells and problems keeping her balance and had unusual marks on her skin.

On December 21, Abu Rahmah saw Dr. Khaled Badwan, head of the ear, nose and throat department of Jerusalem's Augusta Victoria Hospital. He refused to be interviewed for this report.

According to a document obtained by Haaretz, Badwan prescribed a common remedy for dizziness and instructed her to bathe her ear in hot water. Samir said Badwan thought the problem was caused by water trapped in the middle ear, but nevertheless ordered a CT brain scan.

Physicians consulted for this article said Badwan probably suspected another condition.

After receiving normal results from the December 27 brain scan, Abu Rahmah saw Dr. Nasser al-Mualem at the Ramallah hospital, who according to Samir said her problem was common and told her to return in one month.

The medical documents seem to support Samir's claim that with the exception of the headaches and dizziness, his sister was in generally good health. None of the doctors consulted for this article could think of a condition or symptoms that could be fatal in the presence of tear gas.

The lawyer representing the Abu Rahmah family completely denied the IDF's claims. Lawyer Michael Sfrad said that Abu Rahma went in for testing a week ago for a routine winter illness.

"According to people I spoke with, [Abu Rahmah] was at the demonstration on Friday but not at the forefront of the protesters," he said. "After she was injured by the tear gas, she was taken to the village and then transferred to an ambulance. An operational investigation cannot produce reliable findings; therefore we demand a criminal investigation by the military police."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Abu Rahmah's death calling it a "new Israeli crime carried out by the occupation army against our helpless nation."