2004 IDF Study: High Concentrations of Tear Gas Could Be Lethal

Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis are expected in Bil'in on Friday for weekly demonstration, which will be preceded by a memorial service for Jawaher Abu Rahmah.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

The Israel Defense Forces continues to insist that the CS tear gas it uses to disperse demonstrations is safe, though it is still investigating last weeks death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah, which Palestinians blame on tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers.

The IDF is looking into other possibilities, including that she died due to a preexisting illness.

Soldiers firing tear gas grenades at demonstrators near the West Bank village of Bil'in in December.Credit: AP

Seven years ago, the IDF Medical Corps published a study on CS gas in both the Israeli medical journal Refuah and the overseas journal Archives of Toxicology.

That study, based on animal experiments, concluded that to kill a person, you would need a dose 800 to 5,600 times larger than the quantities used to disperse demonstrations.

Nevertheless, it added, a high concentration of the gas in a given location could cause serious or even lethal harm, and therefore, the gas cannot be considered innocuous.

Over the last year the IDF has begun using a tear gas grenade launcher in Bilin, the Ringo, that allows them to shoot six canisters at once into the same place, creating a thick cloud of gas. The Palestinians say Abu Rahmah was caught in such a cloud.

When Haaretz contacted some of the doctors involved in the Medical Corps study, they declined to comment, saying the study was not necessarily relevant to todays conditions.

The study approved the way the IDF used tear gas then and determined that it was not life-threatening, one explained. If the way the gas is used has changed, and especially in a manner that creates much higher concentrations, its necessary to do a new study.

The IDF Spokesman responded that soldiers use the Ringo only in compliance with the binding professional orders for using this weapon, and with the rules of engagement applicable under the circumstances. CS gas is less poisonous than other tear gases. Therefore, it is the tear gas commonly used worldwide.

Moreover, it said, the study found that treating people exposed to CS gas is simple, and any medical crew can treat victims of the gas with simple and readily available medical means. Therefore, it concluded, there is no reason to change the policy for using the gas.

On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis are expected to come to Bilin for the weekly demonstration, which will be preceded by a memorial ceremony for Abu Rahmah.

The IDF, for its part, is expected to try to exercise maximum restraint, and senior officers from the Judea and Samaria Division will personally oversee efforts to keep the demonstrators from vandalizing the fence.

Meanwhile, an IDF inquiry into a separate matter Sundays fatal shooting of a Palestinian at a Jordan Valley checkpoint concluded that the soldiers acted properly even though the man proved not to be a threat, as he was holding what appeared to be a knife (it was actually a bottle) and did not heed repeated warnings to stop.

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