Israeli shells contained Depleted Uranium
by Hans Lebrecht TEL AVIV: More than four years ago, an El-Al cargo jumbo jet crashed in an apartment building in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Many of the survivors later suffered from a "mysterious" cancer. Suspicion was raised that the plane carried bars of depleted uranium 238, which exploded on impact, releasing radioactive material. This was later confirmed. Later, when "Gulf War Syndrome" came to light, many former army personnel worried about the ammunition they had handled, mainly shells fired from artillery tanks. In July 1998, Knesset Member Tamar Gozansky of the democratic Hadash Front asked then-Minister of Defence Yitzhak Mordekhai whether the depleted uranium on the plane that crashed was intended to be used to produce such ammunition for use by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), the Israeli army. Mordekhai said he didn't know what happened during that crash (two years previous) because "I haven't examined the matter". The influential Israeli newspaper "Yediot Aharonot" on January 11 published an article about the depleted uranium affair, which apparently caused cancer among Italian and other members of the NATO army in Kosovo. According to evidence given by senior officers and reserve soldiers in the Israeli Navy, shells containing depleted uranium 238 were part of the American weapon system "Vulcan Phalanx" installed in the Navy's rocket speed boats (Sphinot Tilim). The uranium-containing shells apparently were withdrawn a year ago and replaced with other hard metal shells, although the "Yediot Aharonot" story warned that this denial could necessarily be believed. A crew member of one of the speed boats told the paper that when the boat was unusually crowded, the crew had to sleep in a room in which shells containing Depleted Uranium were stored. Until they read about what happened in Kosovo, it did not occur to the crew members that there was reason to worry. Army spokespersons at first denied the report, maintaining that "the IDF has not employed, and is not employing, ammunition containing depleted uranium." However, after the article was published, they changed their story. "The Vulcan Phalanx cannon was acquired together with the original ammunition, which, like in other NATO armies used one containing depleted uranium", they now say. "After having realised that it was dangerous for Navy personnel handling this ammunition was withdrawn a year ago." The question still remains, whether the IDF is still using this radioactive ammunition in other than the Navy. Many of the armored corps tanks carry Vulcan cannons. Was such ammunition used, or in use now, in tanks deployed on many "strategic" points all over the occupied Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip? Did some of the hundreds of rockets fired on targets in Palestinian towns and villages contain Depleted Uranium? Army and government spokespersons still answer such questions with their standard reply: "Israel does not use non-conventional weapons or ammunition" or "Israel will not employ non-conventional weapons as the first one in the region." We've heard this untrustworthy answer for decades, while the truth has been revealed all over again by the hard facts.
* * *People's Weekly World