JERUSALEM (JTA) – There is no evidence that a Palestinian woman reportedly killed at a West Bank security fence protest died from tear gas poisoning, Israel’s military said.
Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36, died on the morning of Jan. 1, hours after she was said to have inhaled tear gas at a demonstration near the West Bank village of Bilin. She reportedly died of complications from inhaling the tear gas.
Her brother, Bassem, was killed in April 2009 during a demonstration in the same area after being hit in the chest with a tear gas canister as it released its contents.
Anonymous Israel Defense Forces sources cited in Israeli media reports said that inconsistencies in the medical report of the woman’s death provided Monday by the Palestinian Authority call into question the circumstances of her death and contradict the family’s account.
Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak disputed IDF claims that Abu Rahma was not at the demonstration, telling The Jerusalem Post that he saw her there, though not on the front line, and watched her being loaded into an ambulance. Other witnesses reported seeing her collapse at the demonstration and foam at the mouth, according to the +972 Magazine news blog.
While the file shows that her blood was collected for testing at a Ramallah hospital at 2:45 p.m. Dec. 31, the admission form says she entered the hospital at 3:20 p.m.
Abu Rahma’s medical file also showed that she was taking strong drugs for a medical condition that could have been leukemia, and that she had been treated in the same hospital 10 days prior to her death. Pollak told The Jerusalem Post that Abu Rahma was treated in the hospital for an ear infection, though Haaretz reported that during the earlier hospitalization a Palestinian ear, nose and throat doctor ordered a CT scan. The CT scan results were normal, according to documents obtained by Haaretz.
No other protester had a serious reaction to the tear gas used at the demonstration, according to reports.
Abu Rahma’s death sparked demonstrations outside the U.S. ambassador to Israel’s home and the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, leading to arrests.
Palestinian protests, which are joined by Israelis and international activists, take place at the site every Friday. Abu Rahma reportedly had been attending the weekly protests for the past five years. A second brother, Ashraf, was wounded several years ago after being shot during a demonstration against the security fence near the village of Naalin.
The IDF on Sunday released photos showing that the Dec. 31 demonstration at Bilin became violent and thus required the use of tear gas, despite Palestinian claims that the protest was nonviolent. The photos show Palestinians throwing rocks using large slingshots.