Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using experimental weapons on Palestinian civilians.
Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday, Youssef Abul Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza, said, “Medical teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME [dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.”
He added, “Israel has mercilessly targeted Palestinian civilians, leaving many of them with life-threatening injuries and future handicaps.”
Using Gaza as a laboratory
DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.
Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries.
“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009 attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them.”
Gilbert first witnessed the effects of DIME munitions on the human body during Operation Summer Rains, Israel’s 2006 months-long attack on the Gaza Strip that killed more than four hundred Palestinians. “Large chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually we came to understand these must have been the new DIME weapons developed by the US Air Force together with the Israelis,” he said.
The experimental weapon was used on a larger scale during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children.
“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge axe had chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut off,” Gilbert recounted. “In addition we saw very, very destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”
Gilbert said that governments around the world should send forensic experts to Gaza to “analyze the tissue samples from the wounds of the injured and analyze more thoroughly those who are killed,” as well as scientists to follow up with those who have survived DIME blasts. Those survivors have an extremely high risk of developing cancer, Gilbert fears.
But Gilbert warned that focusing on the DIME weapons, which are not explicity banned under international law, risks distracting from Israel’s far more damaging crimes against the people of Gaza.
“The siege and the constant bombing of civilian targets — those two issues are much more important than if [the Israelis] choose to use a traditional shell with a grenade or a DIME weapon,” he argued.
In early July, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, released a report authored by Gilbert which details the fragile state of Gaza’s health sector, crushed under the weight of extreme medical supply shortages as a result of Israel’s ongoing illegal siege.
With Israel’s latest assault flooding Gaza’s already overwhelmed medical facilities with scores of life-threatening injuries, the situation has deteriorated even further, forcing Gaza’s health ministry to declare a state of emergency.
The only thing preventing Gaza from total collapse, according to Gilbert, is the dedication of doctors, nurses and first responders, who are currently working without pay.
“One of the most important deficiencies in Shifa hospital right now is money to pay the hospital staff their salaries. They have not had a normal salary for one year now and for the past three months, since April, they have not received a single nickel in salary and prior to that they had fifty percent salaries for eight months,” he said. “That is really an illustration of their extremely high working morale and their consistent energy to put up with the most intense hardship in order to support the people and treat their wounded. It’s nothing short of heroic.”
Scarred for life
The rising death toll in Gaza has largely reduced the estimated 1,200 people wounded to an afterthought. But many of their injuries are disabling and will scar them for life.
Among the most debilitating injuries Gilbert has seen are amputations. He also described fractures and severe head injuries, especially among children rescued from beneath the rubble of their collapsed homes.
“When they bomb these buildings the roofs collapse and the buildings collapse on the children and they get fractures and head injuries, which are extremely serious,” Gilbert explained. “We have a five-year-old who is now in critical condition with a serious head injury from an Israeli rocket hitting the neighbor’s house and it took down the whole ceiling in his bedroom. Many of these children will be marked for life by their injuries.”
“As a doctor, my prescription is very clear. Number one, stop the bombing, and that means stop Israel from bombing civilians and indiscriminately hitting families. Number two, lift the siege. And number three, find a political solution,” said Gilbert.
“And at the core of the political solution is equity and justice for the Palestinian people to be treated in an equal way as all other human beings protected by international law with UN security, dignity and the right to live their lives in peace.”