Israeli physicians issue an urgent warning to Israel Police about the use of tear gas against protesters at expected anti-government demonstrations this evening and in the coming days. The doctors remind the police of their responsibility to act according to their own safety protocols for crowd control.
Following injuries to protesters by water cannons and mounted police in recent weeks, the Israel Association of Public Health Physicians, the Organization of Female Physicians, and the Israel Society of Toxicology sent a letter to police chief Kobi Shabtai.
“It has come to our attention that the police plan to widely employ tear gas to disperse protests today and in the future. It is our duty to warn you of the danger of serious damage that can be caused to the protesting public from this material,” the letter says.
The doctors point out that the active ingredient in tear gas is “poisonous and irritating, and can in certain circumstances lead to grave damage to a person’s health, and even to death.”
Tear gas poses dangers beyond immediate injury to the eyes, skin, mucous membranes, and airway — especially for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions. The gas can seriously and permanently damage the heart, lungs, and brain. Additionally, people can be badly injured from stampeding that may occur as demonstrators try to get away from tear gas lobbed into a crowd.
The physicians remind police that the extreme heat and humidity of the Israeli climate exacerbates the effects of tear gas and that the gas is flammable and should never be used near open flames. The doctors emphasize that international treaties prohibit spraying tear gas onto crowds from above.
The letter, copied to Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, reminds Shabtai that according to police’s official procedures, tear gas may only be used in a “level 4 situation” — an event of severe and violent resistance against police forces and/or the public.