In the last few weeks we have witnessed an increased use of a new tear gas canister by the Israeli army. Significantly, this new canister differs from its predecessor by the range of its projectile: while the older canisters reached merely a few hundred meters, the new and improved long-range canisters reach several hundred meters, propelled by internal combustion. The soldiers launching the new canisters do not have visuals on the targeted areas, especially when used in built environments. The new canisters are manufactured of lighter materials, however the danger of direct impact is much more significant because of higher velocity. In addition, the new canister is undetectable from the ground whereas previously, demonstrators, its targets, could detect its general direction and avoid impact. The new canister is visible only once it hits its target and emits tear gas.
With the previous tear gas canisters, soldiers were clearly instructed to fire only once they have visuals on the targets. With the new canister, it is much less probable the soldiers are able to clearly see the targets. Thus, for instance, during the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh on Friday, 11 March 2016, an 11 years old boy sustained an injury to his torso from a direct impact of the new canister. I would hate to assume what might have happened had that canister hit the child’s head or the soldier not aim high enough and hit someone within a closer range at the same velocity.
This is a situation in which the use of tear gas as crowd control measurement is akin to live ammunition and can be fatal. On 17 April, 2009, Bassem “Phil” Abu Rahmeh, a 30 years old resident of Bil’in, was killed from a direct impact of a tear gas canister during a demonstration near the separation barrier on his village’s lands. On 9 December, 2011, Mustafa Tamimi from the village of Nabi Saleh was killed from a head injury caused by a tear gas canister fired at close range by an Israeli soldier.
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