International Action Center calls for an investigation  

By John Catalinotto and Sara Flounders,  
Depleted Uranium Education Project of the International Action  Center

27 Nov 2000-- The International Action Center calls upon international organizations,  NGOs, environmental and health organizations to investigate the   Israeli military’s use of prohibited weapons in the West Bank and  Gaza, and to mobilize to stop it. These weapons include dumdum  bullets and CS gas. The IAC believes it also includes depleted- uranium weapons.  

The effect of dumdum bullets and CS gas is immediate, easily shown  and obvious. Using radioactive and toxic depleted-uranium weapons is  an additional crime that has an insidious long-term effect, not only on   combatants and civilians in the vicinity, but over a broad area and to  the general environment, as has been shown by the Pentagon’s  massive use of DU weapons in Yugoslavia and especially in Iraq.   

The International Action Center’s own investigative team on Nov. 1  and 2 saw Israeli helicopter gun ships firing into densely populated  areas. According to international law these attacks on civilian areas  are war crimes--as is the long-term destruction of the environment  from DU contamination.  

Mobilizing investigations, public challenges and mass protests against  the use of DU weapons can stop this crime against humanity.  

The aim of this paper is to show with supporting data that it is credible  that the Israeli military is using DU weapons in the Occupied  Territories. We know that Israel is DU-armed and capable, and  shielding on Israeli tanks is DU-reinforced. The IAC urges scientists,  doctors and soldiers who know of the use of DU shells to come  forward with definitive proof that the Israeli military has at least  tested DU weapons in its attacks on Palestinian offices and homes. In  addition, we urge environmental and other organizations to demand an  accounting from these authorities.   

It will also show how following similar Pentagon or U.S. government  denials regarding test-firing DU weapons in Puerto Rico, Okinawa  Panama and south Korea, revelations and public pressure have forced  admissions and in some cases have won pledges to stop firing DU   weapons. In Kosovo, Yugoslavia, and in the Persian/Arabian Gulf  region this pressure has led to international investigations and legal  actions against DU use.   


U.S. arms make up the major part of the Israeli arsenal and Israel has  been the number one recipient of U.S. arms aid for decades. These  U.S. weapons include the M1 Abrams tank—which fires DU shells   and is armored with DU-reinforced metal. The “Apache” and the  Cobra helicopter gun ships are also equipped to fire DU shells. Since  this latest Intifada started, the U.S. has shipped Israel “the newest   and most advanced multi-mission attack helicopters in the U.S.  inventory,” as reported in the Jerusalem Post. These were Apache  helicopters.     

The IAC delegation witnessed Israeli attack helicopters, which people  described to them as “Apache” helicopters from the U.S., firing shells  and rockets at targets in and around Ramallah on Nov. 1. They then  examined a small office used by the Fatah organization that the  projectiles hit and destroyed.   

The following day they saw machine guns on tanks being fired at  Palestinian youths in Ramallah armed only with rocks and slingshots.  They also visited a Fatah office near Nablus that Israeli rockets had  hit the night before.  

The IAC delegation gathered up shell casings and metal fragments in  these areas. As they were preparing to leave from Ben Gurion  Airport in Tel Aviv, members of the IAC delegation were stopped,  searched and interrogated. The shell casings and metal fragments  were confiscated. While this prevented the IAC from arranging its  own tests, it made them even more suspicious that the Israeli forces  were using DU shells and trying to hide it.  

Because of its great density, DU is also used to stabilize or balance  airplanes and missiles, including the Tomahawk Cruise missile. When  the missile explodes, or should the plane crash, the DU burns and is  released into the air just as it is when DU shells hit steel. DU is also  used to shield tanks, including the M1 Abrams tank used by the U.S.  and Israel. After 32 continuous days, or 64 12-hour days, the amount  of radiation a tank driver receives to his head from overhead armor  will exceed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's standard for public  whole-body annual exposure to man-made sources of radiation.  

Whether from shells or from the scrapings from tanks moving around  the countryside, radioactive materials enter into the land, the water  and the whole food chain, contaminating the densely populated West  Bank and Gaza, where water is a scarce resource. Wanton  radioactive contamination of this region is a crime against all of   humanity and a threat to the entire region now and for generations to  come.  

According to the LAKA Foundation in the Netherlands, the Israeli  army first used depleted-uranium weapons in the 1973 war, under  direction from U.S. advisers.  

The same 1995 report from the U.S. Army Environmental Policy  Institute mentioned earlier asserts that Israel is one of the countries  with DU munitions in its arsenal. These included at that time at least  Bahrain, Egypt, France, Greece, Kuwait, Pakistan Russia, Saudi   Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, as well  as the United States. This assertion has been repeated in the Christian  Science Monitor, the Jerusalem Post, the San Francisco Chronicle  and other newspapers.   

Israel has a nuclear-weapons program more developed than that of  any country except the five major nuclear powers. For exposing this  nuclear program, Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear-weapons technician,  was kidnapped by the Mossad and held in solitary confinement 14   years.  

Given Israel’s own nuclear program and well-developed military  industry, the likelihood is that Israel is a manufacturer of DU  ammunition. The firm Rafael of Israel is named in numerous reports  as being such a manufacturer. But even if this were not the case,  Israel has been able to import DU weapons from the United States.  


DU, much like natural uranium from which it hardly differs, is both  radioactive and toxic. DU is a waste product of the process that  produces enriched uranium for use in atomic weapons and nuclear  power plants. Over a billion pounds of DU exists in the United States  and must be safely stored or disposed of by the Department of  Energy. With its half-life of 4.5 billion years, the radioactivity of DU is  effectively eternal.  

It is so abundant it has been given away to arms manufacturers.  Because it is extremely dense—1.7 times as dense as lead--when  turned into a metal DU can be used to make a shell that easily  penetrates steel. In addition it is pyrophoric, that is, it burns when   heated by friction from when it strikes steel.   

When DU burns, this spews tiny particles of poisonous and  radioactive uranium oxide in the air. The small particles can be  ingested or inhaled by humans for miles around, and even one particle,  when lodged in a vital organ, can be dangerous.   

The Pentagon tested DU shells at various sites around the U.S., and  used it openly in combat against Iraq during the 1991 Gulf war. At  least 600,000 pounds of DU and uranium dust was left around Iraq,  Kuwait and Saudi Arabia by U.S. and British forces during that war.  

Although the U.S. government and military continue to deny or  minimize the environmental and health dangers from depleted uranium  weapons, they themselves have to admit these dangers exist. A 1995  report from the U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute, entitled the  “Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted Uranium in  the U.S. Army” stated, “If DU enters the body, it has the potential to  generate significant medical consequences. The risks associated with  DU in the body are both chemical and radiological.... Personnel inside  or near vehicles struck by DU penetrators could receive significant  internal exposures.”  

DU is also considered at least a contributing cause to the 130,000  reported cases of "Gulf War Syndrome.” Numerous international  studies in Britain, the United States and in Iraq have linked Gulf War  Syndrome to the use of radioactive weapons in the bombing. The   chronic symptoms of this ailment range from sharp increases in  cancers to memory loss chronic pain, fatigue and birth defects in the  veterans’ children.  

The damage to the Iraqi people was even more severe. A symposium  in Baghdad in December 1998 found higher rates of childhood  leukemia and other cancers in people living around Basra, Iraq, and  attributed this to DU contamination. Data was presented on the  pattern of a more than five-fold increase in many cancers, a ten-fold  increase in uterine cancer and a sixteen fold increase in ovarian  cancer and the high incidence of still births and congenital deformities,   especially in Southern Iraq.   


The only admitted use of DU in combat has been in the 1991 war  against Iraq, the 1995 NATO bombing of Bosnia and the massive  NATO assault on Yugoslavia in 1999. There have, however, been  other instances when the Pentagon has test-fired DU shells in such a  way that it has endangered nearby civilians. Besides the many tests  conducted within the United States, these include DU testing at sites  in Vieques, Puerto Rico; Okinawa, Japan; Panama and South Korea.   


Vieques, an island near and part of Puerto Rico, has been a Pentagon  target-practice site since 1940. For the past few years and especially  since an errant U.S. bomb killed a Vieques resident in April 1999,  people in Vieques and all Puerto Rico have mobilized to stop the   testing on that island. As part of this mass mobilization, they have  demanded that the U.S. Navy fulfill its responsibility to the local  environment and clean up depleted-uranium shells it fired on the island.  

While first denying it did such testing, in January 2000, Navy  spokespeople admitted firing 263 shells reinforced with DU during  practice runs in Vieques, claiming they did so "by accident." They said   Navy forces were able to recover 57 rounds, leaving 206. Removing  the DU contamination has remained one of the demands of the  movement in Vieques. Dr. Doug Rokke, former Director of the  Pentagon's Depleted Uranium Project, has condemned the Navy’s   use of DU in Vieques and called in a Feb. 9, 2000 news release for  “complete environmental remediation of all affected terrain and  medical care be provided for all affected residents of Vieques."  


The U.S. government never notified Japan it was testing DU  weapons near Okinawa. Yet it turned out that a U.S Marine Corps  AV-8B Harrier jet in late 1995 had test fired 1,520 rounds of DU  ammunition. The Pentagon finally admitted this in an article published   in the Washington Times on Feb. 10, 1997. This created such a  national outrage including angry denunciations in the Japanese Duma  that the U.S. government apologized, agreed to remove the weapons  from bases on Okinawa and make an extensive clean-up of the site.  

As reported in the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun, Pentagon  spokesperson Kenneth Bacon said the U.S. military has moved all  depleted-uranium bullets deployed in Okinawa to south Korea. He  also reportedly said that in south Korea, the shells are closer to a  "potential battlefield.   

According to the Mainichi Shimbun article, a South Korean foreign  ministry source said the U.S.-puppet government in Seoul had not  been informed of the transfer. "If it is the case that the move was  made to avoid further controversy in Japan, it could disturb sentiments  of the [south Korean] people," the source reportedly said.   


And it did. U.S. Air-Force veteran turned peace activist during the  war against Vietnam Brian Willson reports on his May 2000 visit to  South Korea:   

“For Example, in May 2000, Koreans discovered that U.S.Air Force  A-10s were practice bombing at a 50-year-old bombing/strafing range  (Koon Ni) near the village of Maehyang Ri, fifty-five miles southwest  of Seoul. On May 8, due to an in-flight emergency, one of the A-10s  quickly dropped six bombs outside of the prescribed bombing area,  damaging some houses in the village and injuring seven residents.   “Local Korean villagers have been vehemently opposed to the use of   their historic farmland for U.S. bombing and strafing practice ever  since the Korean government first provided the 5900-acre Koon Ni  site free of charge to the U.S. military in 1951. The Korean  government does not even collect from the U.S. the utility fees   entailed for operating the range, now leased by the Pentagon to the  world's largest arm's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. When people  inquired into the purpose of the A-10s, and asked for explanations for  the errant bombing, they discovered that A-10s were heavily used in  Kosovo and Serbia delivering DU-coated weapons.   “The local people of Maehyang Ri demanded an answer from the  Korean government and U.S. military in Korea as to whether DU  weapons were being stored in Korea or used in any way during   practice bombings. Though at first officials denied presence of DU,  incessant pressure by doubting Korean people finally elicited an  admission from officials of both the Korean government and U.S.  forces that, indeed, DU was present in Korea. It had been moved   there in February 1997 from bases in Okinawa, after the Japanese  complained of its presence there. And though Korean and U.S.  officials denied that they used DU in practices at the Koon Ni range,  they did admit that on two occasions in 1997, DU weapons were   inadvertently expended in Korea.”    


According to an article in the Aug. 20, 1997 Christian Science  Monitor, Rick Stauber, A member of the seven-person team that  prepared the US Department of Defense's report on leftover  ordnance at three military firing ranges in Panama, says during his   investigation he was handed a report, listing all US weapon testing  from the 1960s to the early 1990s, that showed that 120mm depleted- uranium projectiles were fired on Empire Range.   

At first, U.S. Ambassador William Hughs denied Stauber’s report.  When the Fellowship of Reconciliation brought this to the attention of  Panamanian daily newspapers, the strong reaction forced Washington  to admit that the military had at least stored DU shells in Panama to  test their deterioration in tropical climates. Stauber, a military  consultant, said that they would then be obliged to test fire at least  some of the shells to see if they were functional.  


Early in NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, on April 1, 1999, the  International Action Center sent out a news release charging the U.S.  with using DU weapons against Yugoslavia. While the Pentagon was  trying to avoid comment on this, Pentagon spokespeople had already   told the media that the A-10 Warthog anti-tank plane was being used  against Yugoslav tanks in Kosovo. Finally pressure on this question  from the media forced the Pentagon to acknowledge use of DU.  

Still, NATO headquarters and especially the Pentagon withheld  cooperation with investigations of DU contamination of Kosovo.  On  Oct. 14, 1999, a United Nations official who chairs the task force  investigating the impact on the environment of the 78-day U.S.- NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia said that NATO  officials had refused to cooperate regarding their use of depleted- uranium weapons. Pekka Haavisto, task-force chairperson, said his  team was unable to determine the extent of pollution caused by  uranium-tipped weapons. He said NATO refused either to admit  using the weapons or to cooperate with the task force.  

Finally though, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan  from NATO Secretary-General,
 Lord Robertson, it states:   

“DU rounds were used whenever the A-10 engaged armor during  Operation Allied Force. Therefore, it was used throughout Kosovo  during approximately 100 missions… A total of approximately 31,000  rounds of DU ammunition was used in operation Allied Force. The   major focus of these operations was in an area west of the Pec- Dakovica-Prizren highway, in the area surrounding Klina, in the area  around Prizren and in an area to the north of a line joining Suva Reka  and Urosevac. However many missions using DU also took place  outside these areas.”   

According to articles written October 2000 by Rainer Rupp in the  Berlin daily, Junge Welt, and by British journalist Felicity Arbuthnot,  concern over DU dangers have created problems involving both UN  personnel and NATO-country troops occupying Kosovo.   

“Last week [Oct 14-20] the French government followed its Italian  counterpart and launched an investigation of the effects of spent  depleted uranium shells on its soldiers in Kosovo. Two Italian K-FOR   (occupation) soldiers who were stricken with cancer and who showed  symptoms similar to those with Gulf War Syndrome are to be flown  from Kosovo to Rome in the near future.   

“The Rome military prosecutor followed his colleagues in Milan, Turin  and Venice and set underway an investigation of the effects of DU- shells on Italian troops in Kosovo. With this in the background the  Portuguese defense minister has decided to withdraw the Portuguese  troop contingent from Kosovo. (Junge Welt, Oct. 24)  

Notice that in all these cases the military authorities at first either  stonewalled or denied that DU was being used, then wound up having  to admit it.  


A flaming crash of an El Al cargo jet in Bijlmer, a suburb of  Amsterdam on Oct. 4, 1992, killing 43 people has been the target of  ongoing research. The health consequences for people in a whole  section of Amsterdam has created an ongoing movement of the  Dutch Greens on the chemical and radiological toxicity of depleted  uranium.  

The El Al Boeing 747 jet had on board tons of chemicals, flammable  liquids, substances used in the manufacture of nerve gas and 1,500  kilograms of DU in the form of counterweights. Both the nerve gas  chemicals and the DU have long been a topic of debate. The Dutch   Ministry of Defense report “Health risks during exposure to uranium”  documented the radiotoxic effects of DU in the human body.  


U.S. veterans organizations have campaigned to demand investigation  and compensation for their extremely high incidence of chronic  sicknesses among Gulf War veterans. The U.S. government has  denied their claims.  


Some may argue that because the Israelis are not firing against  tanks—the strongest military justification for using DU shells—but  against unarmed or at the most lightly armed and virtually unprotected   opponents, there is no special reason for them to be using DU shells.  

This is true. But the same could be said for U.S. forces in Vieques,  Panama, Okinawa and south Korea, yet DU weapons were tested in  all those places. Like the Pentagon brass, the Israeli general staff  would want to try out their weapons under all conditions, especially in  combat. Now that they are firing at homes and offices in an attempt  to punish the Fatah leadership, they would want to see if DU shells  penetrate concrete as they do steel and if this makes a difference in   battle.  

The Israeli military has already shown its racist contempt for the  Palestinians by firing to maim thousands and kill hundreds of young  people protesting the occupation of their country, people armed in the  great majority with stones and slingshots. As of Nov. 20, over 240  people have been killed and over 8,000 wounded.  

And the Israeli officers have a strong reason to use DU-shielded  tanks. They want the Israeli soldiers and their families to think that  they are invulnerable in their tanks and armored personal carriers  shielded with DU armor. If the troops grow ill months or years later   from their constant exposure to radiation, that is no longer a political  problem for the generals. The same is true when they handle shells  and fire rounds from tank guns.   

The Israeli peace movement and the families of the troops, should  know that the illusion of invincibility comes at a price. There has  already been the beginning of resistance among individual Israeli  troops to playing the role of oppressor. This movement should   seriously consider the dangers of DU.  

The first step to exposing and stopping this crime and its long-term  impact is to start a serious investigation of Israeli use of depleted- uranium weapons.   

Sara Flounders and John Catalinotto are editors and contributors to  the book “Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium” and organizers of  the Depleted Uranium Education Project based at the International  Action Center in New York City. Flounders returned Nov. 3, 2000,   from a five-day fact-finding trip to the West Bank and Gaza.   

The DU Education Project of the IAC is not a scientific research  organization. But it has based its published material on the work of  many prominent scientists and anti-nuclear organizations to create an   awareness of the Pentagon’s reckless disregard for all human life and  for the future even in their limited and conventional wars against small  and developing nations.  
 The International Action Center is an organization committed to  building resistance to U.S. militarism, war and racism. The IAC  attempts to link together through information and concrete solidarity  many different struggles.   

Information on the campaign against the U.S. use of DU weapons is  available on the IAC web site: “Metal of  Dishonor: Depleted Uranium" is available from the IAC or may be  ordered on line from: . To contact the IAC on this   question, call 212-633-6646 or email them at .  

International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
phone: 212 633-6646
fax:   212 633-2889  

To make a tax-deductible donation,   go to


By John Catalinotto

Nov. 12, 2000

A major anti-war organization in the United States is  calling for an international investigation of Israeli use of  depleted uranium shells in its attempt to repress the Al- Aqsa Intifada--the uprising of Palestinians against the occupation.

The IAC is calling upon  "international organizations, NGOs, environmental and health  organizations to investigate the Israeli military's use of  prohibited weapons in the West Bank and Gaza, and to  mobilize to stop it. These weapons include dumdum bullets,  CS gas and depleted uranium weapons."

Sara Flounders, Co-Director of the IAC was in occupied Palestine from Oct. 28-Nov. 2, 2000, as  part of a four-person IAC delegation. The delegation was on  a fact-finding mission and also delivered medical supplies  to Palestinian clinics and hospitals in the territories.

"Such use of DU weapons," says Flounders, "adds to the  crimes the Israeli forces are committing against the  Palestinian population. Israeli helicopter gun ships are  firing into densely populated areas. According to international law these attacks on civilian areas are war crimes, as is the long-term destruction of the environment  from depleted uranium contamination.

"The radioactive materials enter into the land, the water  and the whole food chain, contaminating the densely- populated West Bank and Gaza, where water is a scarce  resource. The wanton radioactive contamination of this  region is a crime against all of humanity and a threat to  the entire region now and for generations to come.

"We urge scientists, doctors and soldiers who have handled  these weapons to come forward with information. Information  supplied this way in Puerto Rico, Okinawa and south Korea  recently have helped mobilize against DU use and put the  Pentagon on the defensive. This crime and its long-term  impact must be fully exposed and stopped."


The draft of a paper on DU the IAC intends to release Nov. 16 shows that in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and in Okinawa,  Panama and south Korea, the Pentagon had either kept secret  or denied using DU until popular organizations challenged  the U.S. military.

Following the protests, the Pentagon was forced to admit DU  use. In Okinawa the U.S. apologized and promised not only to  no longer use DU but also to begin to clean up spent DU  shells.

In addition, movements in France, Italy and other NATO  countries occupying Kosovo have sparked official  investigations of the dangers their troops face from  exposure to DU from shells fired by U.S. planes during the  1999 war. There are reports that the Portuguese government  will withdraw its troops because of DU dangers.

Flounders told how the IAC delegation witnessed "Israeli  attack helicopters, which people described to us as 'Apache'  helicopters from the U.S., firing shells and rockets at  targets in and around Ramallah. We then examined a small office used by the Fatah organization that the projectiles hit and destroyed."


"We also saw Israeli tanks and other armored vehicles firing  machine-gun rounds and larger projectiles at youthful  demonstrators in Ramallah," Flounders added. "We collected  some of the shell casings and metal fragments from the  different target areas to bring back to the United States  for evaluation and testing."

Flounders said: "As we were preparing to leave from Ben  Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, members of our delegation were  stopped, searched and interrogated. The shell casings and  metal fragments were confiscated. While this prevented us  from doing our own tests, it made us even more suspicious  that the Israeli forces were using DU shells."

A 1995 report from the U.S. Army Environmental Policy  Institute asserts that Israel is one of the countries with  DU munitions in its arsenal. Given Israel's own nuclear  program and well-developed military industry, the IAC  believes Israel is quite likely a manufacturer of its own  DU ammunition.

The "Apache" and the Cobra helicopters--both used by the  Israeli armed forces--are equipped to fire DU shells. Also,  the Israeli Sabra tank is modeled on the Abrams M1A1 tank,  which is also capable of firing DU shells.

DU is a waste product of the process that produces enriched  uranium for use in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants.  Because it is extremely dense, when turned into a metal DU  can be used to make a shell that penetrates steel. It's also  pyrophoric; that is, it burns when heated by friction when  it strikes steel.

When DU burns, it spews tiny particles of poisonous and  radioactive uranium oxide into the air. The small particles  can be ingested or inhaled by humans for miles around. Even  one particle, when lodged in a vital organ, can be  dangerous.

At least 600,000 pounds of DU and uranium dust was left  around Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia by U.S. and British  forces during the 1991 war against Iraq. A symposium in  Baghdad in December 1998 found higher rates of childhood  leukemia and other cancers in people living around Basra,  and attributed this to DU contamination. For some cancers  the rates were 5 to 10 times higher than normal.


DU is also considered at least a contributing cause to the  120,000 reported cases of "Gulf War Syndrome." Numerous  international studies in Britain, the United States and Iraq  have linked Gulf War Syndrome to the use of radioactive  weapons in the bombing. The chronic symptoms of this ailment  range from sharp increases in cancers to memory loss,  chronic pain, fatigue and birth defects in the veterans'  children.

While the Pentagon continues to deny any great dangers from  DU, the 1995 U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute study,  entitled "Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted  Uranium in the U.S. Army," stated: "If DU enters the body,  it has the potential to generate significant medical  consequences. The risks associated with DU in the body are  both chemical and radiological.... Personnel inside or near  vehicles struck by DU penetrators could receive significant  internal exposures."

DU is also used to make tank armor and is used in heavily  armored Israeli vehicles. Exposure to radiation for those  remaining in the tanks for a long time or from handling wea  pons can be another source of danger.

"Like the U.S. generals who are the main supplier of Israeli  weapons," said Flounders, "the Israeli general staff are  indifferent to protecting the long-term health of their own  rank-and-file soldiers, not to speak of their racist  contempt for the Palestinians.

"For groups inside Israel who oppose the repression of  Palestinians, challenging DU use could increase the  conscientious resistance from individual Israeli troops that  has already surfaced."

For more information on the campaign against DU weapons,  visit the IAC Web site at  or read the book  Metal of Dishonor, which can be ordered on-line from .



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