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Proletarian issue 40 (Februrary 2011)
Gaza’s people at risk of genetic mutation
Israel has been using experimental weapons against the Gazan population during assaults on the Strip since 2006.
Undeclared chemical weapons, whose make-up and effects are still unknown, rained down intensively during Israel’s massacre of Palestinians in 2008/09.

A largely ignored study (in the western media, at least), carried out jointly by universities in Italy, Sweden and Lebanon, concluded that the weapons had left behind highly dangerous quantities of toxic and carcinogenic metals in the wounds of those that were hit by them. These poisons are expected to have devastating effects not only on the general environment (water, land, sea, air) but also directly on the genes of many surviving people and animals living in the Strip.

The press release below was first issued on 11 May 2010, but has only recently come to our attention. We reproduce this important information in full and with thanks to the New Weapons Committee.

New weapons experimented in Gaza: population risks genetic mutations

Biopsies from 32 victims conducted at three universities: Rome (Italy), Chalmer (Sweden) and Beirut (Lebanon).

Toxic and carcinogenic metals, able to produce genetic mutations, have been found in the tissues of people wounded in Gaza during Israeli military operations of 2006 and 2009. The research has been carried out on wounds left by weapons that did not leave fragments in the bodies of the victims, a peculiarity that was pointed out repeatedly by doctors in Gaza. This shows that experimental weapons, whose effects are still to be assessed, were used.

The researchers compared the quantity of 32 elements present in the tissues through ICP/MS (a type of highly sensitive mass spectrometry). The job, carried out by laboratories of Sapienza University of Rome (Italy), Chalmer University (Sweden) and Beirut University (Lebanon), was coordinated by the New Weapons Research Group (Nwrg), an independent committee of scientists and experts based in Italy, which is studying the use of unconventional weapons and their mid-term effects on the population in post-war areas.

The relevant presence of toxic and carcinogenic metals found in the wound tissues points to direct risks for survivors, and also to the possibility of environmental contamination.

Biopsies of tissues were performed by doctors in Shifa hospital, Gaza city, who selected and classified the type of wounds. Research was conducted on 16 tissue samples belonging to 13 victims. Four biopsies were taken in June 2006, during the operation ‘Summer Rains’, while the others were taken in the first week of January 2009, during the operation ‘Cast Lead’. All tissues were appropriately preserved and then examined by each of the three universities.

The tissues examined came from four types of wound: amputations (marked with an “A” in the study), charred tissue (C), burns (B) and multiple piercing wounds by white phosphorus (M). The following elements were found in quantities well beyond the normal range:

• Aluminium, titanium, copper, strontium, barium, cobalt, mercury, vanadium, caesium and tin in samples of A and C wounds;

• Aluminium, titanium, copper, strontium, barium, cobalt and mercury in M wounds;

• Cobalt, mercury, caesium and tin in B wounds;

• Lead and uranium in all wound types;

• Barium, arsenic, manganese, rubidium, cadmium, chromium and zinc in all but M wounds;

• Nickel in A wounds.

Some of these elements are carcinogenic (mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel and uranium), others are potentially carcinogenic (cobalt and vanadium), others are also fetotoxic (aluminium, copper, barium, lead and manganese).

Those in the first group can produce genetic mutations; those in the second are known to have the same effect on animals, but have not been proven to do the same on people; those in the third group have toxic effects on people and can affect either the embryo or the foetus in pregnant women.

All metals found in high amounts have pathogenic effects on human respiratory organs, kidney and skin and affect sexual and neurological development and functions.

The combination of metals in each type of wound is referred to as a ‘metal signature’, as shown in the following picture:

Columns represent elements, rows represent wound type
Red circles: very high amounts in all biopsies
Orange squares: very high amounts in some biopsies
Blue triangles: amounts similar to those found in normal derma

“Nobody,” says professor Paola Manduca, spokesperson for the New Weapons Research Group and genetics teacher and researcher at the University of Genoa, “had ever conducted bioptic analysis on tissue samples from wounds. We have focused on wounds made by weapons that do not leave fragments, as the doctors from Gaza reported on them repeatedly.

“We wanted to verify the presence of metals that remained on the skin and in the derma. It was suspected that these metals were present in the weapons that leave no fragments, but it had never been demonstrated before. To our surprise, even the burns provoked by white phosphorus contain high amounts of metals.

“Moreover, the presence of these metals in the weapons implies that they have been dispersed in the environment, in unknown amounts and range; they will have been inhaled by the victims and by bystanders, thus constituting a risk for survivors and for people who were not directly hit by the bombing.”

The research follows two previous studies conducted by Nwrg. The first was published on 17 December 2009 and demonstrated the presence of toxic metals in areas around the craters left by the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip. The second was published on 17 March 2010 and proved the presence of toxic metals in hair samples of Palestinian children of Gaza Strip area hit by Israeli bombings.

Both previous studies pointed to the presence of environmental contamination, which is being aggravated by the living conditions on the ground, where many people are still living in rough shelters, exposed to wind and dust. Meanwhile, Israel continues to prevent the entrance of the building materials and tools necessary for reconstruction into Gaza.

Unprecedented birth deformities in Fallujah

Reinforcing these findings, a new study carried out in Fallujah has once more drawn attention to the massive increase in birth defects in the city since the 2004 bombardment by occupying US and British troops.

In May of 2010 alone, 15 percent of the 547 babies born had defects, while 14 percent were spontaneous abortions and 11 percent were born at less than 30 weeks. In one family, three women all gave birth to children with different deformities.

The report, published online last December in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health drew attention to children whose defects could not be accounted for by historic family causes but which could be explained by high levels of toxic metals in the environment.

The high prevalence of birth defects in Fallujah is impairing the population’s health and its capacity to care for the surviving children, ” the study said. “These defects could be due to environmental contaminants which are known components of modern weaponry.”

Total deformities are said to be around 11 times the world average, and are rising. The report, the first carried out on births during 2010, said they were now at “unprecedented levels”, suggesting that the longer adults are exposed to the residual contamination the more defective children will be born. (Information taken from ‘War contamination could be causing deformities in Iraq’ by Richard Spencer, Telegraph, 31 December 2010)

The sickening fact is that the ruling classes of the USA, Britain and Israel share a total disregard for human life and the environment. Their armies have been given a green light to use any means available to suppress local resistance to imperialist occupation, no matter what the consequences.

It has therefore become standard practice for imperialist and zionist soldiers to employ the most devastating chemical weapons against civilians in heavily populated areas – weapons of which local doctors have no knowledge, for whose wounds there is no effective treatment, and whose legacy will haunt the people and pollute the landscape for many generations to come.

It is one more indictment, if such were needed, against an inhuman and barbaric system, whose logic puts the pursuit of profit above all other concerns. It is also one more spur to the victims of that system to rise up and overthrow it. There is no other path to peace and security.

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> Beyond Hiroshima: the non-reporting of Fallujah s cancer catastrophe - October 2010
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