The Guardian February 21, 2001


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The uranium-containing shells apparently were withdrawn a year ago and 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this ammunition was withdrawn a year ago."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. 

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People's Weekly World

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