A water canon, that could be used to spray skunk, installed by the Israeli army on the Wall, near the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.
First used by the Israeli army in 2008, “skunk” is a putrid-smelling liquid developed for dispersing demonstrations. The company behind the creation, Odortec Ltd., initially specialised in “scent-based pest control,” later choosing to focus its “resources and efforts on developing non-lethal, eco-friendly tools for law enforcement.” The toxicity and lethality of this substance, however, has recently been called into question. On Sunday, 75-year-old Rubhiya Abd al-Rahman Darwish of Bethlehem was hospitalised after Israeli forces sprayed her home with “skunk.”
In an interview with Ma’an News Agency, Rubhiya described how she was starkly awoken from her nap by the sound of shattering glass in her small apartment in Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee camp. “I saw a burst of water breaking through the window, when suddenly an intense odour hit and I passed out from the smell, so they had to take me to the hospital. They [doctors] gave me a shot, but the poison started coming out of my mouth and nose. I started screaming because my back was hurting, and it hasn't stopped," she said.
Although its developers insist that the substance “poses no health hazard despite the outrageous smell,” some people who have come into regular contact with “skunk” argue otherwise. “I don’t know what’s in it, but it’s really bad. On some clothes it can take years for the smell to go away,” a photographer at the weekly Bil’in protest told Palestine Monitor. One resident of al-Eizariyah, on the outskirts of Jerusalem situated right next to the Wall, stated that she has known four pregnant women miscarry after inhaling the fumes given off by “skunk.”
According to the online Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), “skunk” is composed of water, yeast and sodium bicarbonate. At the pH level of sodium bicarbonate, “the yeasts synthesise some amino acids causing heavy odour.” The company boasts on its website that “skunk liquid is perfectly safe to consume,” however, the MSDS lists “irritation to the skin, redness and pains to the eyes and abdominal pain if ingested” as “major hazards.” It also stipulates that it should be used when there is “good ventilation,” an open-space environment very unlike the small apartment in which Rubhiya was sleeping when the “skunk” seeped in.
It was reported by locals that this daytime incident was completely unprovoked and unexpected. Many were shocked by the fact that Israeli forces had covered the refugee camp in a layer of the unknown, repulsive substance. Nidal Al-Azraq, a volunteer at the Lajee centre, told Ma’an News that although he was unsure of the purpose of the Israeli raid, he believed that they had done it in order to pressure residents into stopping protesters in the camp, who often throw rocks at the Israeli soldiers stationed nearby.
Al-Azraq went on to add that many people were resigned to such attacks by military forces. "It's useless to say that this is against our human rights, because that is not a language that Israel knows. What use is it to ask why they do this to people?"