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Israeli military conceals information about possible nerve agent used by illegal, violent settlers

26 September 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

On Sunday, September 25th, Riyadh Abu Armile was assaulted by settlers and the army in Hebron,causing for an open investigation by human rights groups as evidence suggests that settlers may have used an unidentified nerve agent during the assault.

On the night of the attack hundreds of settlers from around  Al Khalil (Hebron) arrived in the H2 area, in the centre of the city for the funeral of Asher Palmer and his son from Kiryat Arba who died in a car crash on Friday. Despite the fact that an investigation into the deaths is yet to reach a conclusion about the cause of the crash, soldiers on the scene echoed the proclamations of Israeli media sources, which labeled the incident as a “terrorist attack” because of speculation that the crash was caused by Palestinians throwing stones. A dangerously volatile situation was then created by the decision to hold the funeral in a Palestinian area of Hebron rather than the Kiryat Arba settlement where the deceased lived.

Armile was walking near the Ibrahimi Mosque with his uncle and 7 year old son at about 8pm on Sunday, when  he was met by around 30 settlers who began throwing rocks at the family. More settlers joined the violent assault, and within a few minutes he estimated there were as many as 200 settlers surrounding him. After the family attempted to take refuge in a nearby house, settlers broke the windows and continued the attack.

Armile told us that the attackers used some kind of chemical weapon that emitted a gas, causing symptoms very similar to those of a nerve agent.

Armile said, “‘I couldn’t see and went into convulsions, saliva was coming out of my mouth and afterwards I couldn’t move my muscles for one hour.”

When soldiers arrived at the scene they beat Armile as he tried to protect himself from the settlers. After the attack they detained him for over an hour and refused access for the ambulance that came to treat him. At 9:30PM he had to be carried to the ambulance, which took him immediately to the hospital in Hebron.

The Israeli army confiscated the gas canister used by the settlers and refused to give the doctors information about the chemical agent used. He had to stay overnight in a hospital and required 13 injections. Doctors were unsure how to treat him due to the unknown nature of the chemical and warned him that he may suffer long-term health problems. During the attack his son sustained head injuries from rocks thrown by the settlers, and Armile’s uncle’s hand was also broken.

Red Cross and other human rights organizations are currently investigating the incident as they suspect that the chemical may be some form of nerve gas, which is illegal under international law. The attack comes just weeks after leaked documents from the Israeli military revealed plans to train and arm settlers against Palestinians.