Israeli ‘skunk’ fouls West Bank protests

Updated 05 September 2012
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Israeli ‘skunk’ fouls West Bank protests

Imagine taking a chunk of rotting corpse from a stagnant sewer, placing it in a blender and spraying the filthy liquid in your face. Your gag reflex goes off the charts and you can’t escape, because the nauseating stench persists for days.
This is “skunk,” a fearsome but non-lethal tool in Israel’s arsenal of weapons for crowd control. It comes in armored tanker trucks fitted with a cannon that can spray a jet of stinking fluid over crowds who know how to cope with plain old tear gas.
While the army calls skunk an attempt to minimize casualties, rights groups dismiss it as a fig leaf for the use of deadlier force against protesters in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has been unable to stop an epidemic of local grassroots demonstrations that often turn into clashes.
Skunk is certainly a repellent, but not a complete deterrent. The protesters are fouled but not foiled.
On a Friday in the West Bank’s rugged hills, battle lines are drawn for another day of protest.
Gangly Palestinian youths in jeans are ready to let fly stones from homemade slings at Israeli soldiers down the main road of Nabi Saleh village, whose residents demand access to a local spring seized by Israeli settlers.
The soldiers form a phalanx around their curious weapon of war.
“We run away fast when it comes at us, but we don’t quit,” said a local boy clutching a rock, his dark eyes framed by the oval opening of a black t-shirt wrapped around his face.
“They think they’re pretty smart for inventing it, but they still move on to the tear gas, bullets, and breaking into our homes, just the same as usual,” he said.
The skunk truck makes its charge, scattering the youths up into the town, where the armed Israelis follow.
Palestinians call it simply “shit.”
“How can you describe this stuff?” said Muad Tamimi, whose gas station on the front line of Nabi Saleh’s standoffs is often bathed in it. “It’s beyond foul water, like a dead body and rotting food together, which no soap or perfume can take off — I’m hit with it and nobody goes near me for days.”
Developed by a private Israeli company and first deployed by the army in 2008, skunk is an organic brew of baking powder, yeast, and some ingredients kept secret. It is harmless to health and designed to reduce casualties, the Israelis say.
A skunk truck was spotted recently at a base high in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, ready to repel any assault on the fence along the disengagement line between Israel and Syria. A rush by Palestinians from Syria caught Israeli troops by surprise last year and they opened fire, killing a dozen people.
Local protests have continued against land lost to Israel’s separation barrier and Israeli settlements on land seized in a 1967 war.
Seventeen Palestinians have been killed in protests since 2004, according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Scores have been wounded.
The demonstrations play out to a predictable choreography. Many of the young protesters and Israeli soldiers have even come to know each other by name. They use the knowledge mostly to sharpen the taunts they trade about each others’ mothers.
Each village has its own script.
In Bil’in, where a court petition by locals reclaimed a portion of the village land from the wall, the fetid stream of skunk now sails at protesters from behind its concrete ramparts. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlers in black garb and curls watch the spectacle from atop their settlement homes.
For the army, skunk, and a less-used, focused noise beam called “scream,” are proof of defense minister’s Ehud Barak’s claim that Israel’s is “the most moral army in the world,” pioneering non-lethal weapons.
Rights groups question the army’s motives, dismissing the rhetoric and the inventions as a public relations ploy to conceal the harsh means used in what they say is a campaign to stamp out legitimate opposition to the occupation.
“Given the exaggerated, unlawful, and dangerous use of tear gas and bullets, we doubt the army’s characterization of these events,” said Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem.
Military “Order No. 101,” issued the same year Israel seized the West Bank, required political gatherings of more than 10 people to obtain an Israeli permit. It is used to prosecute organizers and proscribe protests before a stone is even thrown.
The legal leeway on the IDF’s actions, and its ability to bar and detain activists, are reinforced by the declaration of weekly protest sites as “closed military zones.”
“The target is the right to protest, and not much attention is paid to what they’re protesting about: the violation of their rights and the taking over of their land and livelihoods,” Michaeli said.
Better for the Israelis than using any degree of force would be talks that lead to Palestinian statehood, Palestinians say.
“They should look to granting us our rights, negotiating with us, and paving the way for two states for two peoples,” said Shaher Arouri, a lawyer from the Al-Haq rights organization.


After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

An Iraqi woman gets a lip injection at an aesthetic clinic in the northern city of Mosul on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

  • Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war
  • The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it

MOSUL, Iraq: For three years, Mosul’s women were covered in black from head to toe and its men had to keep their beards long. Salons were shut, and plastic surgery considered a crime.
But more than a year after the Daesh group’s ouster, the Iraqi city is flaunting its more fabulous side.
Need to zap away a scar or a burn? Cover up a bald spot with implants? Whiten teeth for a dazzling smile? Mosul’s plastic surgeons and beauticians are at your service.
Raji Najib, a Syrian living in Mosul, recently made use of the city’s aesthetic offerings.
The 40-year-old had long been self-conscious of his bald spots, until his Iraqi friends told him what had worked for them — hair implants at a new clinic in their hometown.
“They told me the equipment was modern, the nurses competent and the prices good,” Najib said.
In Mosul, the average hair implant procedure costs around $800, including the follow-up after the operation.
Nearly 90 kilometers (50 miles) to the east in Iraq’s Irbil, or even further north in Turkey, the same operation costs at least $1,200.
Plasma injections to prevent hair loss cost around $63 in Mosul, but at least $20 more in Irbil.
In addition to the difference in price, Najib would have had to put up money and time for travel.
“Going to a clinic in Mosul is much easier, as I don’t have time to travel outside Mosul,” he told AFP.

Decades ago, only one department in Mosul’s hospitals offered plastic surgery, and only to those who had a severe accident or were trying to eliminate a physical handicap from birth.
Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war.
Religious hard-liners forced women to cover up or stay at home, and extremists in particular targeted hairdressers, many of whom closed their shops in fear.
Another shock came in 2014 when the Daesh group swept across much of Iraq’s north, with the militants making Mosul their de facto capital.
The religious police of Daesh enforced ultra-strict rules on dress for all residents, making sure women showed no skin and men wore ankle-length capris and long beards, with no moustache.
The city has since gotten a makeover.
Five beauty clinics have opened since Mosul was recaptured last summer by Iraqi security forces, and they can hardly keep up with the flow of customers, most of them men.
Muhannad Kazem told AFP he was the first to relaunch his city’s beauty business with his clinic, Razan, which offers teeth whitening services and other dental care.
His secret? “The employees came from Lebanon, and the treatments and machines were imported,” said Kazem, 40.

The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it.
The available hospital beds in Mosul dropped from 3,657 before 2014 to just 1,622 last year, according to the local human rights commission.
But the city is rebuilding, and one new commercial center houses the Diamond Dental Clinic in the bottom floor, with the Shahrazad beauty center upstairs.
A poster at the entrance advertises what’s on offer: injections of botox and other fillers, slimming surgeries, dermatological operations, and more.
Inside the glossy interior are men and women alike, an unthinkable sight under the iron-fisted rule of Daesh.
A female employee carefully injected serums to prevent hair loss into the scalp of a woman gritting her teeth, one of the dozen customers streaming in per day.
Beautician Alia Adnan said the physical and mental impact of the militants on people in Mosul has been long-lasting.
“They have hair or skin problems because of the stress and the pollution that Mosul’s residents were exposed to, both under Daesh and during the clashes,” she told AFP.