Anyone familiar with Palestinian anti-Wall demonstrations knows that Israel’s use of tear gas is a regular occurrence. The Israeli military uses both long and short range powder and gas tear gas canisters as a means of crowd dispersal.
On the morning of 1 January, Bil’in village resident Jawaher Abu Rahmah became the first victim of Israel’s liberal tear gas usage, after she inhaled large amounts of the gas that was sprayed at Bil’in village demonstrators by the Israeli military on Friday, 31 December.
The 36 year old, whose brother Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed by a tear gas projectile fired at his chest by Israeli soldiers in April 2009, was taken to the hospital following the protest but did not respond to treatment.
Some of the tear gas canisters used by the Israeli military are manufactured by the American company Combined Systems Inc., which is based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. The company manufactures a variety of grenades, aerosols, impact munitions, and arms launchers.
While Combined Systems Inc. and the Israeli military maintain that the canisters being used are non-lethal, on its product notes Combined Systems recommends the use of a full face respirator with organic filter cartridge, or self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for those deploying the canisters. A SCBA is a device worn by rescue workers, firefighters, and others to provide breathable air in an Immediate Danger to Life and Health Atmosphere. Combined Systems further recommends ventilation, local exhaust, protective gloves, eye protection, protective clothing to prevent skin contact, and washing thoroughly after handling.
The tear gas being used by the Israeli military is commonly known as CS gas. Following the 1993 American FBI raid on a compound in Waco, Texas, in which large amounts of CS gas was used and dozens died, an investigation was conducted into the possible lethal effects of CS tear gas.1