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Monday, January 03, 2011

"Tear gas death" was a hoax (updated)

I was part of a conference call with an Israeli security source who prefers to be unnamed at this time, but the upshot is this:

All evidence points to the fact that Jawaher Abu Rahma was not killed by tear gas.

The number of inconsistencies and the amount of evidence of lies by Palestinian Arab spokespeople is incontrovertible. Here are some of the facts that the security sources mentioned:

* Abu Rahma arrived at the hospital at 15:20 on Friday - but her lab report is dated/timed 14:45, 35 minutes earlier!

* There is no emergency room report for her arrival.

* The reason for death given was "Inhaling gas from Israeli soldiers according to family."

10 days prior to her death she was in that hospital, taking medication for leukemia. There is evidence that she was in the hospital in the weeks prior as well, which indicates that she had a chronic disease.

Never has anyone died from tear gas in five years of riots in Bil'in.

There is no evidence that Abu Rahma even attended the riot. Her brother is the ringleader of the weekly Bil'in riots and yet there are no photos of her next to him, or anywhere else, on Friday (and possibly ever.)

The tear gas that the IDF used on Friday is exactly the same concentration and type that they have always used, and the same as used by Western countries for years.

The IDF always receives reports of injuries during the demonstrations. On Friday, they received word of two lightly wounded people, both of whom were quickly released from the hospital.

And in order to die from tear gas, you pretty much have to be in an enclosed room with the canister exploding next to you. Outdoors, it is pretty much inconceivable (although there may be some isolated cases.)

(The spokesperson also said that there is no better method to deal with rioters, and keep innocent civilians safe, than tear gas. In addition, Israel's High Court has already decided to re-route the security barrier around Bil'in yet they protesters still show up. Why?)

Interestingly, this may be the second time that Palestinian Arabs have falsely claimed that someone was killed by tear gas. In September, they claimed that a 18-month old baby was killed from tear gas in a Jerusalem riot. There were inconsistencies then as well - the death was never officially reported. But it was instantly believed by Palestinian "human rights" groups.

You can read more coverage from other bloggers on the same call, Israel Matzav and The Muqata, and My Right Word had the initial Israeli news reports.

UPDATE: There is evidence that Jawaher was at the protest. Jewish Voice for Peace tweeted that she had been injured during the rally and was taken to the hospital, at 14:36. There is still no evidence that tear gas was a cause of death, and that remarkable claim needs at least some real evidence besides her brother's say-so. (h/t Jeremiah Haber)

UPDATE 2: Ha'aretz fills in some gaps:

Following repeated requests from Israel's defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority on Monday turned over the medical report on Abu Rahma's death. IDF officials say the medical report contradicts the family's version of events.

According to information obtained by Haaretz from Palestinian medical sources, in the weeks before Abu Rahmah's death she was taking drugs prescribed for a medical condition. It is not known whether these drugs, combined with the tear gas and the "skunk bombs" used by the soldiers, could have caused her death.

Her family says Abu Rahmah's death was caused by the Israel Defense Forces' use of a particularly lethal type of tear gas, but they cannot explain why other demonstrators affected by the tear gas did not need medical care.
The IDF only used standard tear gas - so this is a lie.
Eyewitnesses told Haaretz that the tear gas had an immediate and dramatic effect on Abu Rahmah, who within a few minutes after exposure went into convulsions, began foaming at the mouth and lost consciousness.

Abu Rahmah's brother Samir said that for several weeks his sister had complained of bad headaches, mainly near one ear. He said she also had dizzy spells and problems keeping her balance and had unusual marks on her skin.
He had denied any medical problems only a couple of days ago.<

On December 21, Abu Rahmah saw Dr. Khaled Badwan, head of the ear, nose and throat department of Jerusalem's Augusta Victoria Hospital. He refused to be interviewed for this report.

According to a document obtained by Haaretz, Badwan prescribed a common remedy for dizziness and instructed her to bathe her ear in hot water. Samir said Badwan thought the problem was caused by water trapped in the middle ear, but nevertheless ordered a CT brain scan.

Physicians consulted for this article said Badwan probably suspected another condition.
Another lie by Samir - again, the only "proof" of her being killed by the tear gas comes from him and his family, who have lied twice in this article.
After receiving normal results from the December 27 brain scan, Abu Rahmah saw Dr. Nasser al-Mualem at the Ramallah hospital, who according to Samir said her problem was common and told her to return in one month.

The medical documents seem to support Samir's claim that with the exception of the headaches and dizziness, his sister was in generally good health. None of the doctors consulted for this article could think of a condition or symptoms that could be fatal in the presence of tear gas.
Of course, Ha'aretz didn't ask any of the doctors whether the tear gas itself could have been in any way a contributing factor to her death. Tear gas is designed specifically to be non-lethal - that's why it is used.