Poisoned by tear gas in the comfort of their own home

An IDF night raid on the West Bank village Qaddum left three family members in the hospital. Chances are we’ll never hear about it in mainstream Israeli news outlets.

By Yesh Din (written by Yossi Gurvitz)

The security forces have a problem with the village of Qaddum – we’re not quite sure why. Perhaps it is because the residents hold weekly demonstrations against the occupation. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the security forces have decided to teach the village a lesson. Recently, a mysterious officer, who according to testimonies of the residents calls himself Captain Sabri, walks around telling village residents that he will “teach them a lesson.” Some of the residents suspect him of being a Shin Bet officer.

Whatever Sabri’s organizational loyalty may be, he keeps his word. The Friday demonstrations are dispersed with an iron fist; beyond that the residents also report recurring attacks on the village, even on days when no demonstrations are held. These attacks include the throwing of stun grenades and CS gas canisters (a more aggressive form of tear gas).

In one case, which actually made it to the Israeli media – of course, under the pretense that one more person killed by the IDF will make the kettle boil and bring about a new intifada – Saeed Gasser Nassar Ali, an 85-year-old resident of the village, died after inhaling tear gas, which seeped into his house following a demonstration. The doctor who treated Ali found it hard to give him the best treatment possible, since he too was suffocating from the gas. Let’s say that again: the man suffocated in his house and died in the hospital shortly thereafter. Not during a demonstration. In his house.

A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled "Made in U.S.A." as Bethlehem-area activists displayed U.S.-made crowd control weapons in Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled “Made in U.S.A.” as Bethlehem-area activists displayed U.S.-made crowd control weapons in Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Three weeks before Ali died, M., a resident of Qaddum, woke up at around 1 a.m. His brother warned him that the army was raiding the village, and that all windows must be closed. Soon after, even though he thought he had closed all the windows, gas seeped into the house. The first to feel it was seven year old A., who began screaming that he couldn’t breathe. Then four year old R. began complaining that he was feeling ill. The gas came through the windows of the bathroom, which is close to the children’s room.

M.’s wife was in the bedroom holding H., a-two-month-old baby, in her arms. When the gas reached the bedroom, she too had trouble breathing. M. noticed H. was turning blue and throwing up. He called an ambulance, and reached the village’s doctor – the same doctor that, a few weeks later, would have trouble treating the late Ali. The doctor gave H. an injection and hooked him up oxygen; soon afterwards he was evacuated to a hospital in Qalqiliya. The doctors told the parents that H. was in critical condition. Happily, by morning he was significantly better.

None of this will make the news. No one died. It’s just two children and an infant, poisoned by tear gas in the comfort of their own home. That’s the way occupation works: it requires terror, and effective terror necessitates the knowledge that no place is safe; that even the peace of the children’s room may be violated at any moment. Don’t look away, my dears: this is what we finance. This is what the flying shards look like. Like the broken egg without which no omelet can be made, and all the other clichés we tell ourselves when we say “there is nothing we can do.” Perhaps we can begin by not suffocating babies with gas?

Fear not: no IDF soldier will be harmed as a result of complaints filed after such events. As apparent in the case of Jawaher Abu Rahma, killed after inhaling gas three years ago (a case that Yesh Din is spearheading to force the IDF will begin an investigation into her death), the soldiers have nothing to fear. They’re covered. In our case, M., the father, does not intend to lodge a complaint. The rhetoric of “the most moral army in the world” failed to convince him. He knows there is no point in making the effort. And who knows, if you complain, maybe you’ll be targeted for harassment. So what’s the point? Better to make sure all windows are properly closed. Maybe next time it won’t be your baby.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Elderly Palestinian man dies after alleged tear gas inhalation
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