Chaim Levinson
December 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel Defense Forces soldiers recently resumed the use of prohibited tear gas canisters to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank.

These tear gas grenades, which are in effect 40 mm rounds with a range of 250 meters, were responsible for numerous serious injuries and at least one death. In March 2009, the U.S. peace activist Tristan Anderson was hit in the head by one of these canisters while demonstrating against the West Bank separation barrier in Na'alin. Anderson was critically injured and was hospitalized in a minimally responsive state for several months after the incident. He has recovered some physical and mental functions. In April 2009, Bassam Abu Rahma, of Bil'in, died immediately after being hit in the chest by a tear gas grenade. The incident is still under IDF investigation.

After several human rights organizations protested to the military advocate general, use of the extended-range tear gas canister was banned by the IDF and stocks were removed from weapons depots. Haaretz reported six months ago that in a training day on crowd dispersal held at the General Staff command several officers expressed objection to the ban. They said that that using the shorter-range canisters put soldiers in greater danger and put them in closer range of rocks thrown by demonstrators.

Last month, IDF forces resumed their use of the extended-range tear gas grenades, despite their prohibition. They were used to disperse the demonstrations held every Friday in the village of Nebi Salah, between Salafiya and Ramallah, which end with participants hurling rocks at the soldiers and at vehicles plying the road to the settlement of Neve Tzuf. Two weeks ago, one of these canisters smashed the leg of one of the demonstrators. A video from November 12 shows tear gas coming out of the canister as it lay on the ground.

On Thursday, soldiers from the Carmeli reserve brigade fired extended-range tear gas canisters at teens who threw rocks at them. Several shells bearing the words "extended range" were visible on the ground after the incident.


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