Palestinians are largest victim of tear gas in world: new report


Berkeley, Dec. 28 (TNS): A Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank is the most exposed place to tear gas in the world, according to the author of a new study.

The Human Rights Centre of the University of California at Berkeley recently reported that Israel’s security forces have carried out a “widespread”, “frequent” and “indiscriminate” use of tear gas against Palestinian refugees in Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.

The report – said to be the first to analyse the effects of tear gas in the West Bank – found that 100 percent of the more than 200 Palestinian residents surveyed in Aida camp were exposed to tear gas over the past year.

The report, No Safe Space: Health Consequences of Tear Gas Exposure Among Palestine Refugees, collected testimonies last summer in Aida and the nearby Dheisheh refugee camp.

“We found that the constant and unpredictable use of tear gas in Palestine refugee camps has a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of residents,” said the report’s co-author, Dr Rohini Haar, a researcher at the UC Berkeley centre and a doctor with Physicians for Human Rights.

The effects, Haar told Al Jazeera, are especially harmful on “the most vulnerable, including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people already in ill health”.

The report surveyed 236 residents of Aida, all of whom said they were exposed to tear gas in the last year.

Of that, 84 percent of people said they were exposed while in their homes.

As its name implies, tear gas is intended to cause a person’s eyes to water and skin to burn.

Residents also told the report’s authors that the Israeli army’s use of tear gas was “primarily unprovoked”.

The Israeli army did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on the study’s findings.

Refugee camps are among the most vulnerable to tear-gas exposure in the occupied Palestinian territories, the report states.

Home to about 6,400 Palestinian refugees, Aida covers just 0.017 square kilometres, making it one of the most densely populated places in the world.

Clashes between Israeli security forces and Aida camp residents are frequent, with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) estimating that at least 376 confrontations took place between January 2014 and December 15 of this year, the report stated.