by James Brooks
February 12, 2001: In the war-ravaged neighborhoods of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched a barrage of collective punishment after soldiers were shot at by Palestinian gunmen. Machinegun fire and tank shells rained down on the refugee camps, a fusillade that lasted long into the night. But the Israeli army chose that afternoon to introduce a new and mysterious gas weapon to a defenceless population. To ensure its delivery, the soldiers fired the gas canisters into the streets, courtyards, and houses of the Khan Younis and Gharbi refugee camps.
The people of Khan Younis are utterly familiar with teargas; their neighborhood has long been known as one of the most heavily teargassed areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). But no-one in Khan Younis had seen these strange canisters before, or their seemingly harmless multicolored smoke.
The smoking gas had no immediate effect. There was none of the instant irritation to the eyes and breathing passages caused by all forms of teargas. Soon, however, people began to realize that the gas wasn`t harmless after all. One man recalled: "..ten - fifteen minutes later I got severe stomach cramps. I felt that my stomach was being torn apart. And a burning sensation in my chest. I couldn`t breathe." People began to vomit, and go into seizures and spasms, then collapse and lose consciousness.
The PCHR stated that 238 Palestinians were affected by poison gas attacks between February 12 and February 20. The Israelis suggested that the gas victims were simply suffering from "anxiety."
Source: Full report by James Brooks