Witnesses and officials in Jayyous, a farming village in the occupied West Bank, say a series of unprovoked tear-gas attacks by Israeli troops in recent weeks have taken a grave toll on residents’ health. The attacks come with a further tightening of Israeli military control of the town.
Shareef Omar Khaled of the Jayyous Land Defense committee noted that even though Israel’s “separation wall” has now completely cut off the town from its agricultural lands, the Israeli army has clamped a still tighter noose on Jayyous, imposing a checkpoint at the town’s entrance, and controlling all traffic coming in and out. Shareef reports that soldiers frequently enter to the village and throw tear gas, and that many residents have developed respiratory problems.
Shareef Omar reports that pregnant women in the village are suffering miscarriages as a likely result of the gas. Animals are suffering unprecedented spontaneous abortions at a greater rate, with reports that 30 sheep recently aborted because of a gas canister dropped on a farmer’s barn.
An international witness recently visiting Jayyous reports that two to three times a day in the week prior to his April 28 arrival, Israeli soldiers drove into town, shooting tear gas and harrassing residents. The witness reports that “soldiers had teargassed the town’s school, forcing children to evacuate their classrooms and sending one female teacher to the hospital for a day.” Villagers report that such incursions have worsened since the Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza one month earlier.
Another international volunteer reports on the effects of the gas on a developmentally disabled young man, named Loay, who was hospitalized, and lost ten kilos in 10 days. “It was through his blood tests that the doctors informed him that his difficulties stem from the effects of the tear gas. There is hope that Loay will fully recover, but not without physical therapy and time.”
On March 28, the same international reported: “Two nights ago, they used more than 30 tear gas cannisters. It has been reported than an infant was badly affected and had to be taken to the emergency room. It was also reported that women had to go to the small clinic here in the village the morning after this attack due to having pain in their chests. It seems that the feeling in the village is that…this particular tear gas was stronger and more potent than recent times… I found myself coughing and my eyes tearing up more than 30 minutes after the soldiers shot off their tear gas bombs. This could have been due to either the high number of cannisters let off, or it could have been because the gas was of a different potency. We will never know.”
On March 27, the Red Cross reportedly came to the village and interviewed several people who had suffered from the tear gas. The Red Cross continues to monitor the gas attacks, and is said to be preparing a report on the issue.