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Ifølge konventionen om kemiske våben fra 1993, som er underskrevet af næsten alle nationer i verden, er brugen af tåregas forbudt i krigsførelse stater imellem – men af en eller anden grund tilladt, når der er tale om en stats interne anliggender. De israelske forsvarsstyrker bruger ofte tåregas mod den palæstinensiske civilbefolkning – nogle gange som kollektiv afstraffelse, hvilket også er forbudt ifølge den internationale humanitære folkeret.

I Bethlehem by bor omkring 6.400 palæstinensere i Aida-flygtningelejren, som huserer flygtninge fra krigen i 1948. Anas Abu Srour, koordinator fra Aida Ungdomscenter, har levet hele sit liv i den lille, men tætbefolkede flygtningelejr. Han mindes, hvordan han som barn altid måtte indtænke en exitstrategi inden påbegyndelsen på en leg: “Da vi var børn, ville vi hver gang før vi begyndte at lege, lede efter et sted at løbe hen, hvis de (israelske soldater) afskød tåregas.”

Pierre Krähenbühl, kommissær-generaldirektøren for UNRWA, kommenterer på den nuværende situation: “I gennemsnit gennemfører israelske sikkerhedsstyrker to razziaer i flygtningelejre om dagen. Feltarbejde udført i år af berømte sundhedseksperter tyder på, at beboerne i Bethlehems Aida-lejr udsættes for mere tåregas end nogen anden befolkning i verden. Når palæstinensiske flygtningemødre bliver tvunget til at forsegle deres spædbørn i skabe, mens tårgasskyene penetrerer deres skjul, er situationen ude af kontrol.”

Den kontinuerlige eksponering for militær vold gør det svært at indgyde en følelse af værd blandt de unge i lejren. Salah Ajarma, som er tilknyttet Lajee Center i Aida forklarer, at når de forsøger at lære børnene, hvad deres rettigheder er, modtager de ofte følgende svar: “Hvorfor taler vi om vores rettigheder? Vi har ikke rettigheder.” Anas Abu Srour erklærer sig enig: “Når du nogle gange føler, at du ikke har luft til at trække vejret, erkender du, at du bliver behandlet som et menneske af en lavere klasse.”

Den mest almindelige bestanddel af tåregas er et kemisk middel kaldet 2-chlorobenzaldene malononitril, som var designet til at aktivere smertefølsomme nerver. Komponenten virker som en irritation af slimhinden i øjet, næsen, munden og lungerne, som kan efter 30 sekunders eksponering føre til forbrænding eller en vandig følelse i øjet, give vejrtrækningsbesvær, brystsmerter, overdreven spyt- og hudirritation. Symptomer forværres under tung eksponering, hvor ofre rapporterer kvalme, opkastning eller diarré.

Fordi den israelske hær ikke har oplyst hvilke kemiske komponenter der indgår i den tåregas, hæren gør brug af, er det svært for læger og forskere at klarlægge præcis, hvilken langsigtet indvirkning det kan have på folks sundhed.

Ifølge en international undersøgelse – den første af sin slags – havde hver eneste af de 236 individer, der blev adspurgt, været udsat for tåregas mindst én gang i det forløbne år; 84,3 % af dem, mens de var hjemme. Mange led af tilbagevendende respiratoriske og dermatologiske problemer, mens nogle kvinder rapporterede at have aborteret kort tid efter at være blevet udsat for tåregas. Forskerne opdagede desuden en konsekvent trend på tværs af de forskellige adspurgte grupper, hvilket tyder på, at indbyggerne led af et højt niveau af angst og depression, herunder søvnforstyrrelse, akut stressrespons og kronisk posttraumatisk stresslidelse. Den største stressfaktor var hyppigheden og uforudsigeligheden af israelske soldaters razziaer i lejrene. Konklusionen af rapporten var, at brugen af tåregas forekom at være overdreven, diskriminerende og næsten umulig for indbyggerne at undgå.

Ifølge den humanitære folkeret må overdreven magtanvendelse kun benyttes, når dette er absolut nødvendigt – dvs. når der er tale om en trussel mod livet eller alvorlig skade. Israelske sikkerhedsstyrker gør dog rutinemæssigt brug af overdreven magtanvendelse i situationer, der ikke er berettiget af internationale normer og som i nogle tilfælde resulterer i deciderede forsætlige drab på civile.

I en pressemeddelelse fra den 19. september udtaler Amnesty International, at seks palæstinenseres død inden for blot 24 timer er en forfærdelig demonstration af den unødige eller overdrevne brug af magt, som israelske styrker anvender mod palæstinensiske civile i de besatte palæstinensiske områder. Fire ud af de seks døde efter at være blevet beskudt af skarp ammunition.

Ifølge FN’s kontor for humanitære anliggender kom 961 børn til skade i 2017 – skader forårsaget af at have været i kontakt med israelske sikkerhedsstyrker. På trods af flere advarsler og appeller fra FN og andre aktører om at sikre beskyttelsen af børn, kommer der uge efter uge rapporter fra Gazastriben og andre dele af det besatte palæstinensiske område om børn, der enten er blevet dræbt eller alvorligt såret.

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty Internationals vicedirektør for Mellemøsten og Nordafrika udtaler: “Kendsgerningen at sådanne forbrydelser sjældent hvis nogensinde straffes, muliggør fortsættelsen af ulovlige drab og andre krænkelser af retten til livet med skamløs tilsidesættelse af folkeretten. Disse hændelser er ikke nye i [de besatte palæstinensiske områder] og vil sandsynligvis fortsætte, medmindre denne cyklus af straffrihed bliver brudt.” 

Som også tidligere anvist, hersker der en kultur af straffrihed i de besatte områder – og det med fatale konsekvenser for den palæstinensiske civilbefolkning.

Kilder:

  1. “This Palestinian camp is the community most exposed to tear gas in the world”, The Middle East Eye, 28 December 2017, available here.
  2. “Speech by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl to the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee”, Relief Web, 3 November 2017, available here.
  3. “Ferguson decision: What is tear gas and what does it do to your body?”,  The Independent, 25 November 2014, available here.
  4. “No Safe Space – Health Consequences of Tear Gas Exposure Among Palestine Refugees”, Human Rights Center School of Law University of California, Berkeley, January 2018, available here.
  5. “Israel/OPT: Six Palestinians killed within 24 hours, some deaths may involve war crimes”, Amnesty International, 19 September 2018, tilgængelig her.
  6. “Children’s rights must be put first”, Joint Press statement from Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, James Heenan, Head of OHCHR in oPt and Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF Special Representative in State of Palestine, 1 August 2018, available here.

 

 

Even as they fire tear gas and rubber bullets for no reason

 

According to the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which was signed by almost every nation in the world, tear gas is banned in warfare, but for some reason, legal in domestic riot control. The Israeli Defense Forces very often use tear gas against the Palestinian civilian population – sometimes as collective punishment, which is also prohibited by international humanitarian law.

In the city of Bethlehem, approximately 6,400 Palestinians live in Aida Refugee camp, which hosts refugees from the war in 1948. Anas Abu Srour, a coordinator at the Aida Youth Centre has lived his entire life in the small and densely populated refugee camp. He recalls how, as a child, every game had to be prefaced with an exit strategy: “When we were children, every time before we started playing we would look for a place to run to if they (Israeli soldiers) shot tear gas.”

According to the UNRWA, Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl: “On average, Israeli security forces mount two incursions into refugee camps every day. Fieldwork carried out this year by renowned health experts suggests residents of Bethlehem’s Aida camp are exposed to more tear gas than any other population surveyed globally. When Palestine refugee mothers are forced to seal their infants in closets while clouds of tear gas saturate their shelter, the situation has gone too far.”

The continuous exposure to military violence makes it hard to instill a sense of worth in youth of the camp. Salah Ajarma, general manager of the Lajee Centre in Aida explains that when they try to teach children what their rights are, they often receive the following reply: “Why are we talking about our rights? We don’t have rights.” Anas Abu Srour concurs: “When you feel sometimes that you don’t have air to breathe, you recognize that you are being treated as a human being of a lower class.”

The most common component of tear gas is a chemical agent called 2- chlorobenzaldene malononitrile, which was designed to activate pain-sensing nerves. The component acts as an irritant of the mucous membrane in the eye, nose, mouth, and lungs, which can lead to burning or watery sensation in the eye, difficulty in breathing, chest pain, excessive saliva and skin irritation, following a 30-second exposure to tear gas. Symptoms worsen under heavy exposure, with victims reporting nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Because the Israeli army has not publicly disclosed the chemical components of the tear gas it uses, it is difficult for medical professionals and researchers to understand exactly what long-term impact it might have on people’s health.

According to an international study – the first of its kind, every single one of the 236 individuals surveyed had been exposed to tear gas at least once in the past year, 84.3 percent of them while they were at home. Many suffered from recurrent respiratory and dermatological issues, while some women reported having miscarried shortly after being subjected to tear gas. The researchers also discovered a consistent pattern of responses across groups, which suggests the civilians were undergoing a high level of anxiety and depression, including sleep disruption, acute stress responses and chronic, post-traumatic stress disorder. The biggest stress factor adding to their constant anxiety was the frequency and unpredictability of Israeli soldiers’ raids into the camps. The conclusion of the report was that the use of tear gas appeared to be excessive, indiscriminate and nearly impossible to avoid.

International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable where there is a threat to life or serious injury. Yet, Israeli forces routinely employ the use of excessive force and intentional lethal force in situations not justified by international norms, which in some incidents amount to extrajudicial or willful killings.

In a press release by Amnesty International, issued on 19 September this year, the deaths of six Palestinians within just 24 hours is according to the human rights organization “a horrific demonstration of the unnecessary or excessive force deployed by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)”.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA, reported at least 961 child injuries at the hands of Israeli forces in 2017. Despite continuous warnings and appeals by the United Nations and others to put the protection of children first, week after week, reports emerge from the Gaza Strip and other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory of children killed or seriously injured, some as young as 11.

Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, Saleh Higazi comments: “It is the fact that such crimes are rarely if ever, punished that allows unlawful killings and other violations of the right to life to continue in shameless disregard of international law. These incidents are not new in the OPT and are likely to continue unless this cycle of impunity is broken.” As previously established, a culture of impunity reigns in the occupied territories with fatal consequences for the Palestinian civilian population.  

Sources:

  1. “This Palestinian camp is the community most exposed to tear gas in the world”, The Middle East Eye, 28 December 2017, available here.
  2. “Speech by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl to the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee”, Relief Web, 3 November 2017, available here.
  3. “Ferguson decision: What is tear gas and what does it do to your body?”,  The Independent, 25 November 2014, available here.
  4. “No Safe Space – Health Consequences of Tear Gas Exposure Among Palestine Refugees”, Human Rights Center School of Law University of California, Berkeley, January 2018, available here.
  5. “Israel/OPT: Six Palestinians killed within 24 hours, some deaths may involve war crimes”, Amnesty International, 19 September 2018, available here.
  6. “Children’s rights must be put first”, Joint Press statement from Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, James Heenan, Head of OHCHR in oPt and Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF Special Representative in State of Palestine, 1 August 2018, available here.