Skunk (weapon)

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Skunk carrying vehicle, Bil'in

"Skunk" is a malodorant, non-lethal weapon for crowd control by the Israel Defense Forces. It is also suspected by B'tselem of being used as a collective punishment measure against Palestinians.[1] Deriving its name from the animal of the same name, "Skunk" is dispersed as a form of mist, fired from a water cannon, which leaves a terrible odor of rot or sewage on whatever it touches. It does not wash off easily and is said to linger on clothes for up to five years.[2] First attempts at developing a scent-based form of crowd control began in Israel in 2004; Skunk was first used for crowd control in August 2008 in the village of Ni'lin. It is used even when crowds are quiet and there is no stone throwing, with Palestinians. It has not been used to disperse Israeli crowds in dedmonstrations.[1][3] A BBC reporter describes its effects as follows:-

“Imagine the worst, most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven’t been washed for weeks – topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer. . .Imagine being covered in the stuff as it is liberally sprayed from a water cannon. Then imagine not being able to get rid of the stench for at least three days, no matter how often you try to scrub yourself clean.”[4]

It was sprayed in late June 2014 throughout Bethlehem's Aida refugee camp in what residents describe as an 'unprovoked and unexpected' attack, though it is regularly used according to B'tselem, against Palestinian villages where demonstrations are frequent. Among Palestinians, the liquid is known simply as "shit".[5] In rebuttal to a B'tselem report, the Israel Defense Force stated that 'Skunk' is used only when demonstrators become violent or engage in vandalism and detailed the rules of engagement in which it is used.[6] It was used in November 2014 in the Palestinian township A-Tur near the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to dowse 4 large schools, compelling 4,500 to stay home. According to local residents it is being used 'routinely and arbitrarily.'[7][8]

According to David Ben Harosh, head of technological development for the Israeli police, the recipe is based entirely on natural organic ingredients, including yeast and baking powder, does not include any harmful materials, and may even be ingested without causing harm. The inventors plan to market Skunk to other forces worldwide. The development of Skunk followed numerous accusations against Israeli forces that they often employ disproportionate force in clashes with Palestinian protestors (e.g. using rubber bullets or tear gas), which has led them to seek new, non-lethal but effective methods of crowd control.

Skunk in action against targets in Bil'in

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