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Norwegian doctors call for investigation into weapons used on Gaza

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b170 (Published 16 January 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b170
  1. Gwladys Fouché
  1. 1Oslo

    Israel is testing an “extremely nasty” type of weapon in Gaza, two Norwegian doctors have claimed on returning home on 13 January after spending 10 days working at a hospital in the Palestinian territory.

    “There’s a very strong suspicion, I think, that Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons,” said Mads Gilbert, head of emergency medical services at the University Hospital of North Norway, in Tromsø. He told the BMJ about the injuries that he and his colleague Erik Fosse, head of the interventional centre at Rikshospitalet University Hospital in Oslo, had dealt with at Gaza’s Shifa hospital.

    “We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen a number of very brutal amputations . . . without shrapnel injuries, which we strongly suspect must have been caused by the DIME [dense inert metal explosive] weapon,” said Professor Gilbert.

    A dense inert metal explosive is an experimental small weapon that detonates with extreme force, dissipating its power in a range of 5-10 metres.

    When they explode their effect is devastating, said the doctors. “If you are in the intermediate vicinity of a DIME weapon, it’s like your legs get torn off. It is an enormous pressure wave,” said Professor Fosse.

    “I have seen and treated a lot of different injuries for the past 30 years in different war zones, and this looks completely different,” added the 58 year old who, like Professor Gilbert, is a pro-Palestinian campaigner.

    “We are not soft skinned when it comes to war injuries, but these amputations are really extremely nasty and for many of the patients not survivable,” said Professor Gilbert.

    The professors, who looked gaunt and exhausted after their time in Gaza, did not have figures for the number of patients that they had seen who presented with this type of injury. But Professor Gilbert said that he had seen them before, when he was working in Gaza in July 2006 and again in March 2008.

    “Studies done in the United States have proved that if you implant fragments of these weapons on research animals, they develop cancer within four to six months,” added the 61 year old, who is also a member of the regional assembly for northern Norway, for the far left Red party.

    “Israel should disclose what weapons they use, and the international community should have an investigation,” said Professor Gilbert.

    Asked whether Israeli forces used DIME weapons, an Israeli army spokeswoman told the AFP news agency that she was “not aware of this type of weapon” and reiterated claims that all arms used by the military comply with international law.

    Professors Gilbert and Fosse have attracted some controversy. They have been accused by some of supporting radical movements, with Professor Gilbert accused of faking a television report about the death of an 11 year old boy during the conflict.

    However, Professor Gilbert said that the allegation was “completely absurd.”

    The pair were sent to Gaza with the Norwegian Aid Committee, a medical aid agency funded by the Norwegian government. In the past the committee has worked in southern Lebanon with the Martyr Foundation, an organisation affiliated with the movement Hezbollah. It now works with the Islamic Health Society, which is also affiliated with Hezbollah.

    Professor Fosse, who heads the Norwegian Aid Committee, defended the joint ventures. “If you want to do medical work [in south Lebanon] you cannot ignore Hezbollah or the Hezbollah affiliated organisations,” he said.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b170