Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Staff at al-Shifa Hospital treat a victim of Israel’s current attack on Gaza. (Photo: Basel Yazouri / ActiveStills)

Israel Firing Experimental Weapons at Gaza’s Civilians, Say Doctors

Rania Khalek

 by Electronic Intifada

Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using experimental weapons on Palestinian civilians.

Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday, Youssef Abul Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza said, “Medical teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME [dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.” 

He added, “Israel has mercilessly targeted Palestinian civilians leaving many of them with life-threatening injuries and future handicaps.” 

In the last week, Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 190 people, eighty percent of them civilians, including at least 34 children

Using Gaza as a laboratory

DIME munitions were developed by the US Air Force in 2006 and have since been tested repeatedly on the people of Gaza, who have long served as involuntary lab rats for Israel’s weapons industry. 

DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.

Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries. 

“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009 attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them.”

Gilbert first witnessed the effects of DIME munitions on the human body during Operation Summer Rains, Israel’s 2006 months-long attack on the Gaza Strip that killed more than four hundred Palestinians. “Large chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually we came to understand these must have been the new DIME weapons developed by the US Air Force together with the Israelis.”

The experimental weapon was used on a larger scale during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children

“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge ax had chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut off,” Gilbert recounted.  “In addition we saw very very destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”

Gilbert said that  governments around the world should send forensic experts to Gaza to “analyze the tissue samples from the wounds of the injured and analyze more thoroughly those who are killed,” as well as scientists to follow up with those who have survived DIME blasts. Those survivors have an extremely high risk of developing cancer, Gilbert fears. 

But Gilbert warned that focusing on the DIME weapons, which are not explicity banned under international law, risks distracting from Israel’s far more damaging crimes against the people of Gaza.

“The siege and the constant bombing of civilian targets — those two issues are much more important than if [the Israelis] choose to use a traditional shell with a grenade or a DIME weapon,” he argued.

Dire shortages

In early July, the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) released a report authored by Gilbert, detailing the fragile state of Gaza’s health sector, crushed under the weight of extreme medical supply shortages as a result of Israel’s ongoing illegal siege. 

With Israel’s latest assault flooding Gaza’s already overwhelmed medical facilities with scores of life-threatening injuries, the situation has deteriorated even further, forcing Gaza’s health ministry to declare a state of emergency

The only thing preventing Gaza from total collapse, according to Gilbert,  is the dedication of doctors, nurses and first responders, who are currently working for free. 

“One of the most important deficiencies in Shifa hospital right now is money to pay the hospital staff their salaries. They have not had a normal salary for one year now and for the past three months, since April, they have not received a single nickel in salary and prior to that they had fifty percent salaries for eight months,” he said. “That is really an illustration of their extremely high working morale and their consistent energy to put up with the most intense hardship in order to support the people and treat their wounded. It’s nothing short of heroic.”

Scarred for life

The rising death toll in Gaza has largely reduced the estimated 1,200 people wounded to an afterthought. But many of their injuries are disabling and will scar them for life. 

Among the most debilitating injuries Gilbert has seen are amputations. He also described fractures and severe head injuries, especially among children rescued from beneath the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“When they bomb these buildings the roofs collapse and the buildings collapse on the children and they get fractures and head injuries, which are extremely serious,” Gilbert explained. “We have a five-year-old who is now in critical condition with a serious head injury from an Israeli rocket hitting the neighbor’s house and it took down the whole ceiling in his bedroom. Many of these children will be marked for life by their injuries.” 

“As a doctor, my prescription is very clear. Number one, stop the bombing, and that means stop Israel from bombing civilians and indiscriminately hitting families. Number two, lift the siege. And number three, find a political solution,” said Gilbert.

“And at the core of the political solution is equity and justice for the Palestinian people to be treated in an equal way as all other human beings protected by international law with UN security, dignity and the right to live their lives in peace.”

© 2021

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized. Her work has appeared at Common Dreams, Salon, The Nation, In These Times, Citizen Radio and more. To see more of Rania’s work visit her blog Dispatches from the Underclass and follow her on twitter @RaniaKhalek.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Embarrassing': US Absent as World Joins Together to Protect Biodiversity

"It reinforces the notion that the U.S. is a fair-weather partner when it comes to environmental conservation, including issues of climate change," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

'It Was Torture': African Asylum-Seekers Describe Restraint Agony on ICE 'Death Flights'

"In Cameroon, I had been beaten with a machete until my feet swelled and bled... But the day I was put in the WRAP by ICE, I wanted to die. I have never felt such horrible pain."

Brett Wilkins ·

Progressives to Biden: Ignore Panel Advice and Embrace Supreme Court Expansion

"The GOP's rigged bench is contorting our laws," said Sen. Ed Markey. "We need to pass legislation to expand the Supreme Court."

Jake Johnson ·

Tory Lawmaker Stabbed to Death During Meeting With Constituents in UK

"Horrific and deeply shocking news," said Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer in response to the assassination of MP David Amess.

Common Dreams staff ·

New Study Reveals Poor, Low-Income Voters Were Crucial in Toppling Trump in 2020

The findings challenge "the media-driven narrative... that white low-income voters are the de facto base of the Republican Party."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo