Last year’s Israeli bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip has left a high concentration of toxic metals in the soil, according to a study by the New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC), an Italy-based group of academics, physicians and researchers. Those metals can cause tumurs and problems with fertility, and can have serious effects on newly born babies, including deformities and genetic pathologies. The metals are in particular tungsten, mercury, molybdenum, cadmium and cobalt.
The NWRC working group analyzed four craters in Gaza—two formed during the July 2006 bombing campaign in Beit Hanoun and Jabalia Camp, and two from the January 2009 bombings in Tufah, a Gaza City suburb. The group also analyzed powder residue from a shell of a white phosphorus bomb exploded near the al-Wafa hospital in January 2009.
The study has compared metal concentration levels in the samples with those indicated in a report based on samples collected around Gaza in 2005. The analysis shows anomalous concentrations of these metals in the new smaples.
Says NWRG member and University of Genoa geneticist Paola Manduca: “Our study indicates an anomalous presence of toxic elements in the soil. It is essential to intervene at once to limit the effects of the contamination on people, animals and cultivations. We need strategies to help the contaminated people. We hope that the research performed so far by the Goldstone Commission, requested by the United Nations, will not only analyze the abuses of human rights, but that it will also concentrate on the long-term effects that the various types of weapons have on the environment and on the population. A rapid collection of data should be carried out.” (NWRC press release, Dec. 23)
Thabet Masri, director of the neonatal division in the Gaza health administration, told Xinhua that from July to September 2009, the rate of babies born with congenital deformities was 17 per month, compared with nine per month over the same period of 2008. He said he believes the increase is related to the radioactive and toxic materials resulting from Israel’s use of prohibited weapons. (Xinhua, Dec. 31)
See our last post on Gaza.