TEL AVIV (Jun. 23)
The Israel Defense Force has rejected allegations by Amnesty International that its use of tear gas to disperse rioters may have contributed to the deaths of about 40 Palestinians.
Nevertheless, the IDF will conduct a thorough investigation into the matter, a senior military source said Thursday. That, in fact, is what the London-based, private humanitarian agency had asked for.
The IDF pointed out that it has already investigated similar complaints by residents and doctors in the West Bank, which proved to be unfounded.
Amnesty International said it had reports that Israeli soldiers fired tear gas into houses, clinics, schools, hospitals and mosques, although the gas is supposed to be used only in the open air.
The IDF said it had strict regulations to use tear gas only out of doors, not in buildings.
The agency admitted it had little clinical evidence that the gas was responsible for deaths, but said it thought the patterns of death following high exposure to tear gas were sufficiently disturbing “to warrant a thorough and urgent review of IDF use of tear gas, and an immediate investigation into deaths among civilians following exposure to tear gas.”
It said almost all of the alleged victims were babies, the elderly and people with respiratory or other illnesses which made them vulnerable to gas.
The IDF stressed that the types of tear gas it uses are standard in Western countries for riot control. It is used by the IDF for that purpose only, not as punishment.