In Nazareth, Haifa, Ramallah, Jerusalem and beyond Palestinians have been demonstrating against the ongoing ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Israeli regime. Motivated and inspired by the steadfast resistance of Palestinian families facing forced evictions from their homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, they have bravely taken to the streets – bravely because they do so, knowing that what awaits them is brutal crackdown by the Israeli army and police.
Indeed, at Al-Aqsa compound, where much of the violence against protesters has taken place, Palestinians were tear gassed and fired at as they prayed. Further south, Israel has launched air raids on Gaza, hitting civilian buildings and killing over 40 people, including at least 14 children.
In addition to those killed, hundreds have been injured by live and rubber bullets, tear gas and beatings, but also by a weapon that is lesser known to the global media covering the protests. Many have erroneously referred to it as a water cannon or a sewage truck.
In Arabic, we call it the “kharara”- literally “the shitter” – for its putrid smell. In English, it is called skunk water, after the notoriously awful smell released by skunks. Skunk water was developed as a “crowd control weapon” by an Israeli company called Odortec.
Skunk water is a liquid compound with an overpowering odour that has been described by those who have experienced it as the smell of sewage mixed with rotting corpses. In reality, it is a concoction of chemicals that causes intense nausea, obstructing normal breathing, causing violent gagging and vomiting. The company’s safety sheet also indicates that it can cause skin irritation, eye and abdominal pain. Palestinians have also reported that it causes hair loss.
Security forces that use skunk water claim that it is non-lethal and non-toxic. Yet high doses can have a lethal effect, and when it is fired from a water cannon, it is sprayed at extremely high pressure, which can cause serious injury.