I first heard of Vik before arriving in Gaza. Vik had just been injured by IOF water canoning which shattered the windows of the fishing boat he was accompanying. Vik had some injuries from the shattered glass.
When I met Vik he was nothing but humble and humour. A compassionate man, living to do good and do anything for Palestinian justice. Others knew him better and longer, and told me of Viks arrests by the IOF, deportation, and other interesting stories. But above all, what shone, aside from his intelligble English and random Italian curses, was his humanism.
He was taken from Gaza, briefly, by the IOF navy, when they kidnapped 15 Palesitnian fishermen and 3 accompanying activists, including Vik, in November 2008, from Palestinian waters. At the time of his abduction, he was electrically shocked while peacefully avoiding abduction by diving into Gazas cold waters.
Stay human, he always said. And so was the title of his book on the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009. Stay human.
Viks blog, Guerilla Radio, gave voice to Palestinians who have strong voices but are denied the microphone.
During the Israeli war on Gaza, we all worked together, riding in ambulances, documenting the martyred and the wounded, the vast majority (over 83%) civilian. Vik was always on the phone, Italian media taking his words and printing them for the public to see.
Aside from the loss of a compassionate, caring human, activist, and friend, I am saddened by the group that did this. Surely they knew Vik was with them, for them. But in every society, including my own, there are extremists, people who act with misguided guidance.
Vik was there, among the war casualties, among the on-going martytrs unspoken in the corporate media, celebrating Palestines beauty and culture, dancing Dabke at my wedding celebration.
He was there to joke with us, to counsel us, to smoke shisha by the sea…He wrote the truth, spoke the truth, stayed human.
Vik, my brother, allah yerhamek, bless you for your humanity and your great contribution to Palestinian justice. I will miss you, your smile, your humble, fun personality.
Yatikalafia ya Vitorrio.
A first assessment of environmental impact and health
The issues regarding depleted uranium (DU) and its toxicity have sometimes, in recent years, gone beyond the scope of science. The writer  has dealt with radiation protection for twenty years and depleted uranium since 1999. After an experience of publishing scientific papers in journals, conference proceedings and international conferences on DU, this article attempts to estimate the possible environmental and health impacts of the use of depleted uranium in the war of Libya (2011).
Reports of its use have appeared in the media since the beginning of the conflict. In particular, Cruise missiles have been used since the first days, and we will show there is a strong suspicion that those missiles bring Depleted Uranium either as flight stabilizers in the wings, or as weight kinetic energy enhancer. In the last week of the conflict, A-10 airplanes were deployed, and those too are well known for using DU bullets.
The ICBUW (International Council for the Ban of Uranium Weapons) has thoroughly address the question . Statements from US Air Force that A-10 airplanes are not using DU bullets will be taken as a starting hypothesis, however being very suspect since in all past conflicts (Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan) A-10 airplanes have widely used DU ammunition. Also other suspected weapons bearing DU, such as the AV-8B aircraft, are pointed out here, but disregarded in the following calculations and assessments, which largely focus on Cruise missiles.
Because of its unique physical characteristics, in particular the density that makes it extremely convenient as a mass enhancer (about 19 kg/l), but also the low cost (the production cost of DU is about $ 2 per kg) and the inconvenience to treat as radioactive waste, DU has found its way use in the military field.
If properly treated, the U-Ti alloy is a very effective material for the construction of kinetic energy penetrators, thick metal bullets that can pierce armours when fired against it at high speed.
The penetration process pulverizes most of the bullet, exploding into incandescent fragments of Uranium (violent combustion of almost 5000 ° C), when it hits the perforated armor, increasing the destructive effect. This property is called “pyrophoricity”, as for example, the characteristic of sulfur in matches. So in addition to the high density of DU, pyrophoricity too makes it a material of great interest for these applications, in particular as an incendiary weapon (API: Armour Piercing Incendiary).
Finally, during the impact on the objective, the relative hardness of the DU (alloyed with titanium) provides the projectile self-sharpening ability: in other words, the projectile does not “flatten” against the armour that must break through, forming a “head flat “- as for example a projectile of lead – but it retains its shape tapering to the complete fragmentation, without thereby losing the penetrating properties.
In battle, the DU has certainly been used in the Gulf War of 1991, during the bombings NATO / UN over the Serbian Republic of Bosnia in September 1995, against Yugoslavia in spring 1999; in this century, during the attack on Afghanistan and then further in Iraq in 2003.
The use of DU devices in wars in Somalia and Bosnia-central and central-eastern Europe (especially large areas around Sarajevo) in the 90s, in Palestine and shooting ranges the responsibility of NATO military forces, is still incompletely documented. 
Among weapons that use DU, we also include the Tomahawk Cruise missile, whose use during the Balkan war of spring 1999, although not recognized by NATO has been confirmed by findings on site and sources of the European Union. 
On the other hand, in the Decalogue delivered to all the soldiers sent to Kosovo in 1999, there were recommendations to be followed to the letter, stating the presence of depleted uranium on the territory and particularly in Cruise Tomahawk missiles. The introduction reads:
“The vehicles and materials of the Serbian army in Kosovo can be a threat to the health of soldiers and civilians who were exposed to them. The vehicles and equipment found destroyed, damaged or abandoned must be inspected and handled only by qualified personnel. The dangers arising from depleted uranium as a result of damage caused by NATO bombing campaign in relation to vehicles hit directly or indirectly. In addition, the collimators containing tritium and the instruments and indicators can be treated with radioactive paint, dangerous for those who had access to the means to inspect. “Here are tips on how to avoid exposure to depleted uranium. Textually: “Avoid any medium or material suspected of being hit by munitions containing depleted uranium or Tomahawk Cruise missiles. Do not pick or collect with DU munitions found on the ground. Tell your command immediately around the area that you feel contaminated. Wherever you are demarcated the area contaminated by any material found on site. If you are in an area contaminated, at least wear a mask and gloves. Ensure good personal hygiene. Frequently wash the body and clothes. “
The evaluations on the amount of DU used in cruise missiles differ very much. In particular, they vary in different sources, including values around 3 kg, but to go up to about 400 kilograms. In the note there is a compilation of different sources available on this aspect, very important for the estimation of environmental impact.
The predictable official denial statements about the presence of uranium in these missiles collide with the above publications, as well as sources of military origin
This large variability in the data can be easily explained. Some Cruise missiles are with their head weighted with depleted uranium, some are not. Even those other ones, however, even if they do not have a depleted uranium warhead, they bring it in the wings, as a stabilizer in flight.
Then we can define two cases,
WORST CASE: Cruise with uranium in the head. Assume 400 kilos of DU.
BEST CASE: Cruise without uranium in the head. Take 3 kilos of DU in the wings.
Calculation of environmental impact and health effects
In the large literature on depleted uranium by the author, the problem was already dealt with: a calculation of radioactive contamination from uranium due to cruise missiles, particularly those launched on Bosnia in 1995, was already performed. The study can also be found on the Internet, as well as the scientific journal “Tribuna Biologica e Medica” (Biological and Medical Forum)., .
Returning to the models used in the article mentioned above, one can deduce which is the mechanism of contamination, at the point of exposure and inhalation, with a calculation designed to determine only if – at least in a realistic case – the relevance of the doses does not allow to neglect the problem.
We consider the impact of a Tomahawk cruise missile that brings 3 kg (best case), or 400 kg (worst case) of DU.
The impact produces a cloud of debris of various sizes, after violent combustion at about 5000 ° C. The dust is, as mentioned, is composed of particle sizes in the range [0.5 - 5] micron. Between 500 and 1000 meters from the impact one can breathe clouds with a density sufficient to cause significant doses, consisting of particles having a mass of about 0.6 to about 5 nanograms. An estimate was made using the GENII code for dose and dispersion calculations. We chose to neglect the effects of fire, considering only the inhalation exposure due to the simple release of the material, not considering some factors that could cause further increase the exposure.
Critical group, in this case, it is precisely those people “invested” by the cloud of dust after explosion.
After the missile hits the target, dust can ignite and disperse and be oxidized into the environment, according to the estimates that will be done in this work.
About 70% of DU, contained in the missile which is supposed to always hit the target, being an “intelligent weapon”, burns. Of this, about 50% are soluble oxides.
The size distribution of the constituent particles of DU oxide dust belongs entirely to the small-size, breathable, and ultra-fine dust. In particular, the diameter of the particles in this case is finer than the dust of uranium usually encountered in the preparation of nuclear fuel within the nuclear industry. It deals practically with dust included in the range [1-10] micron, with a significant proportion of particles with a diameter less than one micron.
As for the behaviour of DU dust in the human body, the main route of contamination is – as noted – inhalation. As mentioned, part of the dusts are soluble and some insoluble into body fluids.
Given the characteristics of DU oxides of military origin, it should be noted that they have different behaviour with respect to industrial dust of uranium. You can, however, still assume, according to ICRP, that about 60% of the inhaled dust is deposited in the respiratory system, the rest is re-exhaled.
It can be assumed that about 25% of the particles around 1 micron in diameter are retained for a long period in the lungs, while the rest is deposited in the upper breathing apparatus, then it passes into the digestive system and hence is eliminated, while small parts go to accumulate in the bones.
About 25% of micro-particles is held in the lungs, about half the material behaves like a class M according to ICRP, which is slowly soluble in body fluids, while the rest is insoluble.
This type of behaviour and exposure has not been studied in any previous situation of exposure to alpha emitters in the lungs, found in the civil applications. The way of exposure is very different from those under which equivalences-dose radiation damage were derived
It is therefore not entirely correct – though it is a starting reference point – to use here the ICRP risk assessments, which were derived from the radioactive dust data and the exposure of miners of uranium mines, nor of course is it correct to use the correlations derived from the epidemiological studies on the highly-irradiated Hiroshima and Nagasaki population. ICRP radiation protection standards are based on these experiences, and therefore may underestimate the risk in this case.
Moving on to another type of toxicity than the one due to ionizing radiation, is also plausible that:
- Given the component of fine and ultra-fine dust of DU for military origin,
- Given the well-known chemical toxicity of uranium,
environmental contamination by DU oxidized dusts of military origin has both chemical and radiological toxicity: it must be evaluated the synergistic effect of these two components.
In other words, radioactivity and chemical toxicity of DU could act together to create a “cocktail” effect which further increases the risk.
We must also put emphasis on the fact that the arid climate of Libya favours the dispersion in the air of particles of depleted uranium, which can be inhaled by civilians for years after the explosion. That is not the case, for instance, of the Balkans. The main mechanism of exposure at the long-term concerns the re-suspension of dust and consequent inhalation.
The methodology and assumptions for this model have already been published in other works to which the author refers. We will mention here only the refinements and changes with respect to the model applied and already published, and in particular:
- The calculation of the dose commitment of 70 years and not more than 50 years, as recommended by ICRP.
- The available data are used to approximate population distribution around the points of impact, which also considers the use of the main DU weapons in relatively populated areas of Lybia.
The model results can be summarized as follows:
- CEDE (collective effective dose equivalent): 370 mSvp in 70 y, for 1 kg of DU oxidized and released into the environment.
- CEDE annual maximum in the first year (76 mSvp), followed by the second year (47 mSvp) and third (33 mSvp).
- The entire route of exposure is by inhalation of dust. The target organ is the lung (97.5% contribution to CEDE).
- Among the most responsible nuclides, 83% of the CEDE is U238, and 14% by U234.
As for the total amount of oxidized DU in the environment, we start from the data for this assessment by the international press: in the first day of the war, about 112 cruise missiles impacted on Libyan soil. How many missiles will be fired before the end of the war? That is unknown, however we will do an assessment considering about 1,000 missiles fired, and in any case the values are linearly variable with the actual amount of fired missiles, by means of a simple proportion.
Given the length of the military operations, the wide variety of suspect DU-bearing weapons, we consider this statement to be on the safe side.
If all the missiles were “without” DU, it would still have a quantity of:
1000 * 3 = 3000 kilos = 3 tons of DU (best case)
If all the missiles were using DU we have an amount up to:
400,000 kilos = 400 tons of DU.
Compare these data with the 10-15 tons of DU fired in Kosovo in 1999 to assess their seriousness.
Assume that about 70% of DU burns and it is released into the environment, thus arriving at an estimate of the amount of DU dispersed oxides of about 2.1 tonnes (best case) and 280 tonnes (worst case).
This therefore allows to estimate a CEDE (collective dose) for the entire population of:
· Best case: 370 mSvp / kg * 2100 kg = 780 Svp
· Worst case: 370 mSvp / kg * 280,000 kg = 104,000 Svp
We state once again that it is not entirely correct – though it is a starting point of reference – to extrapolate the risk assessments for exposure to this type of micro-radioactive dust from the ICRP radiation protection standards, which are those adopted by the GEN II code.
However, if we apply here the coefficient of 6% Sv-1 for the risk of cancer, we get about
· Best case: about 50 cases of cancer, to be found in 70 years.
· Worst case: about 6200 cases of cancer, to be found in 70 years.
The risks from exposure to depleted uranium of the population of Libya due to the use of this material in the War of 2011 were evaluated with an approach as broad as possible, trying to take into account some recent results of studies in the field.
This type of exposure has not been studied in any previous situation of exposure to alpha emitters in the lungs, found in the civil applications.
However, the assessment made of the doses and the consequent risks to both situations (Cruise “without uranium” or “uranium”) allows us to draw some conclusions.
In the first case (best case), the expected number of cancers is very small and absolutely not relevant from the statistical point of view. This statistical difficulty – as is just obvious point out – has nothing to do with the acceptation of this practice, its moral acceptance, or even less with an allegation of a minor impact or even a safety of this practice.
In the second case (worst case), however, we are faced with a number of tumours of some thousands. Such an amount could easily be detected in epidemiological studies and such a number of casualties is, no doubt about that, quite a concern.
It should be useful, therefore, that the armies that are bombing Libya clarify with evidence, and not simple assertions of convenience, the presence or absence, and in what quantities, of uranium in their missiles and other weapons.
In the past, there were “official” denials of the presence of uranium in Cruise missiles, but they were coming from the military area: the author allows, at least, some caution in their flat acceptance.
Based on available data, estimates on the trend of cancer cases in the coming years in Libya as a result of this practice are absolutely unjustified and constitute a concern. The discussion about the relative impact of each of the carcinogenic substances used in a war (chemical, radioactive, etc.), seems – at a certain level – of little significance. Also, the author puts this as a final reflection, such a discussion shows little respect for the fact that the civilian casualties in Libya that will be caused by this attack will exceed by far any amount that may be defined as “a fair price to pay.”
Finally, it is important to collect data and research – and there are many – in the field of the effects of “new wars” on population and environment. We must show how modern weapons, not at all surgical and intelligent, produce unacceptable damage to population that have been subjected to the “humanitarian” wars since 1991.
Massimo Zucchetti is Professor at the Department of Energy at the Torino Polytechnic
This paper has been originally published in Italian in many online journals and site, among which:
A video in Italian of the author publicly denouncing the fact in Roma, April 2nd, is available here:
and an interview at the Italian RAI3 Radio on march 31st, 2011 :
Some comments in main Italian newspapers:
and on the Italian TV Rainews24:
Then the paper has been translated into French by Marie-Ange Patrizio and published here:
The author has denounced the fact at Radio Algerie on March 30th
 Professor of “Nuclear Power Plants” c/o Politecnico di Torino, Italy. Chair of “Safety and Risk Analysis” and “Radiation protection”. firstname.lastname@example.org
 Air Force Spokeswoman claims that A-10s were not loaded with DU ammunition, but does not rule out future use in the conflict. 4 April 2011. A US Airforce Spokeswoman has told a Scottish journalist that, as of 2nd April, A-10s fighting in Libya have not been firing DU ammunition. However, she refused to give any assurances about the future use of DU, stating that she didn’t want “to speculate on what may or may not be used in the future”. ICBUW calls for the US to give a categorical assurance, similar to that given by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, that weapons containing DU have no place in this conflict. A clear statement, covering both A-10 and AV-8B aircraft should be issued at the earliest opportunity. If the US has taken a strategic decision not to equip US planes with DU ammunition in this conflict, that is a progressive step. However, in the absence of a public declaration that such a decision has been taken, concerns will remain that the door has been left open for the future use of DU in Libya. ICBUW calls for the US to take steps in a clear and transparent manner to assure the world that no US aircraft will go into the air equipped with DU ammunition, and that pilots will not be cleared to fire it. Any DU ammunition currently in theatre should be separated and left unused. As ICBUW has long maintained, DU has no place in conventional munitions. The current position of the US affirms that position: if US planes have been able to use alternatives, there is no reason why alternatives should not be found for all ammunition containing DU. We call for all current user states to remove these weapons from their arsenals. An urgent step to protect civilians in areas where DU weapons have already been used, is for user states to share targeting data with the authorities in affected states – a move endorsed by 148 states in the UN General Assembly last December, and opposed by only four, including the US, France and UK.
 Zajic V.S., 1999. Review of radioactivity, military use and health effects of DU: http://members.tripod.com/vzajic; Liolos Th. E.(1999) , Assessing the risk from the Depleted Uranium Weapons used in Operation Allied Forces, Science and Global Security, Volume 8:2, pp.162 (1999); Bukowski, G., Lopez, D.A. and McGehee, F.M., (1993) “Uranium Battlefields Home and Abroad: Depleted Uranium Use by the U.S. Department of Defense” March 1993, pp.166, published by Citizen Alert and Rural Alliance for Military Accountability.
 Letter of Satu Hassi, Minister of the Environment of Finland, to all Ministers of Environment in Europe, stating that the majority of the 1500 missiles shot on Serbia in 1995 had depleted uranium, about 3 kilos each.
 Different statements about the presence of DU in Cruise Tomahawk Missiles:
Zajic, Vladimir S. “Review of Radioactivity, Military Use, and Health Effects of Depleted Uranium” [1 August, 1999]. 2/27/2002. http://vzajic.tripod.com
 While the US Navy claims that they have replaced the MK149-2 Phalanx round with a DU penetrator by the MK149-4 Phalanx round with a tungsten penetrator (with the DU round remaining in the inventory), new types of DU ammunition are being developed for other weapons systems, such as the M919 rounds for Bradley fighting vehicles. Depleted uranium is also placed into the tips of the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAM) during test flights to provide weight and stability. The TLAM missile has a range of 680 nautical miles (1,260 km) and is able to carry a conventional warhead of 1000 lb. (454 kg). Older warheads were steel encased. In order to increase the missile range to 1,000 nautical miles (1,850 km), the latest Tomahawk cruise missiles carry a lighter 700 lb. (318 kg) warhead WDU-36 developed in 1993, which is encased in titanium with a depleted uranium tip.
 M.Zucchetti, ‘Measurements of Radioactive Contamination in Kosovo Battlefields due to the use of Depleted Uranium Weapons By Nato Forces”, Proc. 20th Conf. of the Nuclear Societies in Israel, Dead Sea (Israel), Dec. 1999, p.282.
M.Cristaldi, A.Di Fazio, C.Pona, A.Tarozzi, M.Zucchetti “Uranio impoverito (DU). Il suo uso nei Balcani, le sue conseguenze sul territorio e la popolazione”, Giano, n.36 (sett-dic. 2000), pp. 11-31.
M.Zucchetti, ‘Caratterizzazione dell’Uranio impoverito e pericolosità per inalazione’, Giano, n.36 (sett-dic. 2000), pp. 33-44.
M.Cristaldi P.Angeloni, F.Degrassi, F.Iannuzzelli, A.Martocchia, L.Nencini, C.Pona, S.Salerno, M.Zucchetti. Conseguenze ambientali ed effetti patogeni dell’uso di Uranio Impoverito nei dispositivi bellici. Tribuna Biologica e Medica, 9 (1-2), Gennaio-Giugno 2001: 29-41.
M. Zucchetti, “Military Use of Depleted Uranium: a Model for Assessment of Atmospheric Pollution and Health Effects in the Balkans”, 11th International Symposium on “Environmental Pollution And Its Impact On Life In The Mediterranean Region”, MESAEP, Lymassol, Cyprus, October 2001, p.25.
M. Zucchetti “Some Facts On Depleted Uranium (DU), Its Use In The Balkans And Its Effects On The Health Of Soldiers And Civilian Population”, Proc. Int. Conf. NURT2001, L’Avana (Cuba), oct. 2001, p.31.
M. Zucchetti, M. Azzati “Environmental Pollution and Population Health Effects in the Quirra Area, Sardinia Island (Italy)”, 12th International Symposium on Environmental Pollution and its Impact on Life in the Mediterranean Region, Antalya (Turkey), October 2003, p. 190, ISBN 975-288-621-3.
M.Zucchetti, R. Chiarelli ‘Environmental Diffusion of DU. Application of Models and Codes for Assessment of Atmospheric Pollution and Health Effects’, Convegno ‘Uranio Impoverito. Stato delle Conoscenze e Prospettive di Ricerca’, Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Roma) Ottobre 2004.
R. Chiarelli, M.Zucchetti, ‘Effetti sanitari dell’uranio impoverito in Iraq’, Convegno ‘La Prevenzione Primaria dei Tumori di Origine Professionale ed Ambientale’, Genova, Novembre 2004. Poster reperibile al sito: http://registri.istge.it/italiano/eventi/poster%20n°25.htm
R. Chiarelli, M.Zucchetti, ‘Applicazione di modelli e codici di dose alla popolazione alla dispersione ambientale di Uranio impoverito’, Convegno ‘La Prevenzione Primaria dei Tumori di Origine Professionale ed Ambientale’, Genova, Novembre 2004. Poster reperibile al sito: http://registri.istge.it/italiano/eventi/poster%20n°26.htm
M. Zucchetti, “Environmental Pollution and Population Health Effects in the Quirra Area, Sardinia Island (Italy) and the Depleted Uranium Case”, J. Env. Prot. And Ecology 1, 7 (2006) 82-92.
M. Zucchetti, “Scenari di esposizione futura In Iraq: convivere con l’uranio impoverito” in: M.Zucchetti (a cura di) “Il male invisibile sempre più visibile”, Odradek, Roma, giugno 2005, pp. 81-98.
M. Zucchetti, “Uranio impoverito. Con elementi di radioprotezione ed utilizzo delle radiazioni ionizzanti”, CLUT, Torino, febbraio 2006. ISBN 88-7992-225-4.
M.Zucchetti “Depleted Uranium”, European Parliament, GiethoornTen Brink bv, Meppel (Holland), 2009. ISBN 978-90-9024147-0
 Cristaldi M. et al., Conseguenze ambientali ed effetti patogeni dell’uso di Uranio Impoverito nei dispositivi bellici. Tribuna Biologica e Medica, 9 (1-2), Gennaio-Giugno 2001: 29-41.
 It is a dispersion and dose code, developed in the USA and used worldwide: B.A.Napier et al. (1990), GENII – The Hanford Environmental Radiation Dosimetry Software System, PNL-6584, Pacific Northwest Laboratories (USA)..
 ICRP, 1995. Age-dependent Doses to Members of the Public from Intake of Radionuclides: Part 3 – Ingestion Dose Coefficients. Publication 69 Annals of the ICRP. 25 (no 1).
 M.Zucchetti, ‘Caratterizzazione dell’Uranio impoverito e pericolosità per inalazione’, Giano, n.36 (sett-dic. 2000), pp. 33-44; R.Chiarelli, M.Zucchetti, ‘Applicazione di modelli e codici di dose alla popolazione alla dispersione ambientale di Uranio impoverito’, Convegno ‘La Prevenzione Primaria dei Tumori di Origine Professionale ed Ambientale’, Genova, Nov.2004. http://registri.istge.it/italiano/eventi/poster%20n°26.htm
Today, our friend and colleague, Vittorio Arrigoni, a journalist and human rights defender working in the Gaza Strip, was kidnapped by Salafists, members of a very small extremist group in Gaza.
Vittorio has been active in the Palestine cause for almost 10 years. For the past two and a half years, he has been in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement, monitoring human rights violations by Israel, supporting the Palestinian popular resistance against the Israeli occupation and disseminating information about the situation in Gaza to his home country of Italy. He was aboard the siege-breaking voyage in 2008 with the Free Gaza Movement and was incarcerated in Israeli prisons several times. He was in Gaza throughout Israel’s brutal assault (Operation Cast Lead), assisting medics and reporting to the world what Israel was doing to the Palestinian people. He has been arrested numerous times by Israeli forces for his participation in Palestinian non-violent resistance in the West Bank and Gaza. His last arrest and deportation from the area was a result of the Israeli confiscation of Palestinian fishing vessels in Gazan territorial waters.
Vittorio frequently writes on the issue of Palestine for the Italian newspaper, IL Manifesto and Peacereporter. Additionally, he maintains a popular blog (http://guerrillaradio.iobloggo.com) and Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vittoriatio-Arrigoni/).
Khalil Shaheen, a friend of Vittorio and Head of the Economic and Social Rights Department at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said, “This is outside of our traditions. We are calling for the immediate release of my best friend. Vittorio Arrigoni is a hero of Palestine. He was available everywhere to support all the poor people, the victims. I’m calling on the local authorities here in Gaza, and all security departments, to do their best to guarantee his safety and immediate release.”
Vittorio was granted honorary citizenship for his work on promoting the cause of the Palestinian people. Members of Gazan civil society are demanding his release; tomorrow at 4:00pm there will be a mass demonstration in Jundi Square.
The chairs that Nidal and Najah Qdeih were sitting in when they were killed in an air strike. (Rami Almeghari)
Around midday last Friday, Ibrahim Qdeih was chatting with his daughters and wife about preparations underway for his daughter Nidal’s wedding later this month. Those plans would be forever disrupted after an Israeli missile hit their house, taking the lives of Ibrahim’s wife, Najah, and daughter, Nidal.
“I was set to go to the Friday sermon [at the mosque] and it was about 12:15pm, when my daughter Nidal was talking to me about the final touches for her wedding party. By then, electricity was cut off and my wife Najah and my daughters Nidal, Neda and Fida, all moved to rest a bit on these chairs,” Qdeih explained, standing near a crater left by the fatal missile strike next to his modest, rural home in al-Faraheen, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
The bereaved father added “After we talked, I took my son to the Friday sermon at a nearby mosque. While in the middle of the road, we heard a large explosion but we went on walking, for I didn’t expect it was my home. As we arrived at the mosque, someone told me that my house was struck by a missile. Then I rushed back along with my son to the house.”
As the two arrived, Ibrahim’s 43-year-old brother, Fathi, along with Ibrahim’s neighbor, Mansi, were trying to aid Ibrahim’s wounded daughters, Neda and Fida. Najah and Nidal did not survive the strike. Neda is currently in critical condition and is being treated at al-Nasser hospital, while Fida’s injuries are moderate.
Fathi was the first to arrive at the gruesome scene.
“As I was walking down just few meters away from my brother’s house, just near this palm tree, I was shocked by the explosion and saw some pillars of smoke rising up from Ibrahim’s house,” Fathi said while surrounded by family in Ibrahim’s three-room home.
“Then I pushed the door to see what happened. It was horrible, it was horrible — Najah’s face was smashed and stained with blood, while Nidal’s abdomen was ripped open with blood covering all over her body.”
Nidal’s fiance, 24-year-old Jihad al-Qarra, was waiting anxiously for their wedding day before the missile hit. Al-Qarra teared up when he entered the room where luggage lay, stuffed in preparation for a wedding that will never happen.
|Ibrahim Qdieh and his son Ahmad. (Rami Almeghari)|
“Just four hours before Nidal was killed, I was taking part in the funeral procession for my cousin Abdallah, who was also killed by an Israeli drone the day before,” al-Qarra, a university graduate and farmer, said. “It was a very difficult moment for me when I heard Nidal was killed. Nidal was a very quiet, simple and kind girl who I really loved for the past six months and I wanted her to be my life partner.”
Asad al-Najjar, Ibrahim’s brother-in-law, vented his anger over the loss of his sister and niece.
“This is a catastrophe,” al-Najjar said. “Where is the UN Security Council, where are the rights groups and others who are concerned about the protection of civilians in the time of war? It is really the climax of atrocities! This is an unbearable situation where people can never feel safe inside their homes. How come such helpless women are struck by missiles, killed and wounded inside their home?”
In the half-meter-wide crater left by the strike, Najah and Ibrahim’s 12-year-old son, Ahmad, began collecting small pieces of shrapnel. “I am collecting these small pieces for remembrance,” the boy said before being overcome by emotion.
The Qdeih family were not the only to suffer casualties last week as the Israeli military bombed across the Gaza Strip. According to Adham Abu Silmia, spokesperson for the ambulance service in Gaza, the Israeli army targeted civilian homes and even medical centers such as the Hijazi clinic in northern Gaza.
“Eighteen persons, including three children, two women and two elderly men have been killed either by air strikes or artillery fire,” Abu Silmia explained. “And 67 other persons have been wounded, including forty women, children and elderly and two ambulance crew members.”
Abu Silmia added that four of the wounded, including an elderly farmer in northern Gaza, had limbs amputated due to the drone or artillery fire.
Israeli army spokesperson Arieh Shaliqar, asked to comment on the deaths of Najah and Nidal Qdeih in their home, said: “Please let me emphasize that the Israeli army is not interested in fighting civilians or fighting people who are uninvolved or people who are regular citizens living in the Gaza Strip or in any other place. Our enemy is the Hamas terrorist organization, which keeps on sending rockets on the Israeli home front.”
In the wake of last week’s strikes, several Gaza-based armed factions, topped by the ruling Hamas party, declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza. Israel threatened to collectively punish Gaza in the event of additional rocket fire from Gaza.
Last Thursday, Israel stepped up attacks on the Gaza Strip after Hamas’ military wing fired an anti-tank rocket on a school bus in southern Israel, critically wounding a 16-year-old boy and the bus driver. Hamas said the strike was in retaliation for Israel’s 1 April extrajudicial killing of three Hamas members in Gaza.
The latest violence follows weeks of escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, which Israeli analysts say has been fueled and instigated by Israel.
In Cairo, Arab League chief Amr Mousa signaled the possibility that he would request the United Nations consider imposing a no-fly zone over Gaza to prevent further Israeli air strikes.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, there will be one less wedding celebration this month. And during this reporter’s time in al-Faraheen with the Qdeih family, the Israeli drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles — overhead signaled the end of the interview.
“Let’s leave the house right now; the drone is overhead and I think this is enough,” Fathi Qdeih said.
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.
Everyone knows about Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and, now, Fukushima. But what about Semipalatinsk, Palomares and Kyshtym? The world is full of nuclear disaster zones — showing just how dangerous the technology really is.
A Survey of the World’s Radioactive No-Go Zones
By Michail Hengstenberg, Gesche Sager and Philine Gebhardt | Der Speigel | April 12, 2011
Wednesday, Mar. 28, 1979. In the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the nightmare scenario of nuclear physicists was about to unfold. At four in the morning, employees in the control room noticed the failure of a pump in the reactor’s water cooling loop. When a bypass valve failed to trip, water stopped flowing to steam generators, resulting in an emergency reactor shutdown. But the reactor continued to generate so-called decay heat. A relief valve opened automatically but then failed to close, allowing coolant to flow out at a rate of one ton per minute. The control panel erroneously indicated that the cooling system was functioning normally, meaning technicians initially failed to recognize the problem.
By 6 a.m., the top of the reactor core was no longer covered in cooling water — and the fuel rods began to melt. At the last moment, a technician noticed the problem and closed the relief valve. A full-scale meltdown was only barely averted.
Still, the series of events had a devastating effect: Not only was radioactivity released into the atmosphere, but contaminated coolant escaped into the nearby river. Cancer rates in the local population later rose dramatically. In addition, large parts of the reactor and the power plant site were contaminated. The clean-up operation in Harrisburg took 14 years and cost more than $1 billion. And the reactor ruins are radioactive to this day.
The case is instructive. It was the result of tiny construction errors and a small dose of human error. And now, as the world watches on in horror as the catastrophe in Fukushima continues to unfold, the debate on the safety of nuclear power has been reignited. The area around Fukushima will likely remain contaminated for decades, if not centuries. And many are once again wondering if the returns from nuclear technology justifies the risks. How can anything be considered under control which can so quickly mutate into an apocalypse?
Sadly, though, disasters like Three Mile Island and Fukushima are not as rare as one would hope. There have been plenty of atomic accidents resulting in significant radioactive leaks, spills and explosions. And the Chernobly Exclusion Zone, for all the attention it gets, is far from the only nuclear no-go area on the planet. A look at some of the worst incidents is enough to demonstrate just how high the price of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons truly is. … continue
Last month, the International Monetary Fund’s Independent Evaluation Office issued a remarkable report. The report quite clearly blamed the IMF for failing to recognize the factors leading up to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and to provide warning to its members so that preventive actions could be taken.
The report noted that several prominent economists had clearly warned of the dangers facing the world economy prior to the collapse that began in 2007. One of these economists was Raghuram Rajan, who was actually the chief economist at the IMF when he gave a clear warning of growing financial fragility back in 2005. Yet these warnings were for all practical purposes ignored when it came to the IMF’s official reports and recommendations to member countries.
The IMF deserves credit for allowing an independent evaluation of its performance in the years leading up to the crisis. It would be great if the Fed, the Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory bodies allowed for similarly independent evaluations of their own failings. Nonetheless, readers can be very confident that nothing at the IMF will fundamentally change because of this report.
The first reason for confidence in the enduring power of the status quo is that the report never clearly lays out what the basis of the crisis was. This is important because the basic facts show the incredible level of incompetence of the IMF in failing to recognize the dynamics of the crisis.
The housing bubbles that were driving growth in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland and several other countries in this period were front and center in the crisis. These bubbles created sharp divergences in house prices both from historic trends and also from rents. There was no plausible story whereby these prices could be sustained. The only question was when the bubbles would burst.
Furthermore, there was no plausible story whereby the bubbles could burst without leading to a serious falloff in demand and a sharp jump in unemployment. In the case of the United States the bubbles in the residential and non-residential real estate had raised construction spending by close to 4 percentage points of GDP and consumption spending by an even larger amount.
The overbuilding from the bubble virtually guaranteed that construction would fall below its trend level following the collapse of the bubble. This means that the collapse of the bubble would leave a gap of 8-10 percentage points of GDP. In the United States this gap in annual demand is between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion.
What mechanisms did the IMF’s economists think existed to fill such a gap? The facts here are really simple, it would have been helpful if they had been spelled out more clearly so that readers could appreciate the incredible incompetence of the IMF’s staff in this instance.
It is worth noting that the financial crisis was a sidebar. It is difficult to see how anything would be different, at least in the United States, if the financial crisis had not occurred. At this point, large firms can directly borrow on capital markets at extraordinarily low interest rates. Surveys of smaller firms show that lack of demand is their biggest complaint. Very few mention the availability of capital.
Featuring the financial crisis so prominently in the story makes it more complex than necessary. Credit default swaps and collaterized debt obligations are complicated. Bubbles are simple.
One of the problems highlighted in the report was the problem of groupthink. This is when people say what they expect their bosses and their peers want them to say, rather than independently evaluating the situation. The report does some serious hand-wringing over the issue and comes up with a set of proposals which are virtually guaranteed to have no effect.
Remarkably, these economists never suggested the remedy that economists usually propose for bad performance: dismissal. There is a vast economics literature on the need for firing as a mechanism to properly motivate workers to perform. This report provides great evidence of the need for such a mechanism.
The proposals to combat groupthink are all very nice, but the bottom line is that the economists at the IMF all know that they will never jeopardize their careers by repeating what their bosses say. If we want economists at the IMF and other institutions who actually think for themselves they have to know that they will endanger their jobs and their careers if they mindlessly follow their boss.
Whenever I have raised this point in conversations with economists they invariably think that I am joking. When I convince them that I am serious, they think the idea of holding economists responsible for the quality of their work to the point of actually jeopardizing their careers is outrageously cruel and unfair.
The reality is that tens of millions of people across the globe have seen their lives wrecked because these economists did not know what they were doing. It is outrageous that ordinary workers who were doing their jobs can end up unemployed, but the economists whose mistakes led to their unemployment can count on job security.
Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.
Press TV | April 13, 2011
JERICHO — The Jerusalem legal aid and human rights center said the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) violated the higher court’s decision and demolished homes and structures belonging to Bedouin clans in Nuwaimi’ah area near Jericho city.
The center added that on Wednesday it demanded the Israeli prosecution bureau, the IOF judicial advisor and the higher court to explain why the Israeli army violated the court decision.
The center noted that the Israeli army pulled down homes, barns and other structures belonging to the Bedouin families without an order from the civil administration and in violation of the higher court’s decision which ordered a freeze on any action against the families and their property.
Nuwaimi’ah Bedouins received demolition warnings at the end of last year and earlier this year and the Jerusalem center on behalf of them followed all legal procedures to revoke any moves aimed to raze their homes or displace them.
Meanwhile, an Israeli military court issued a decision to demolish a barn for poultry and livestock and a water well in Beera village, southwest of Al-Khalil city.
The land research center said Israel troops stormed the village and gave the owner one week to remove the barn and the well at his own expense.
In a separate incident, Israeli troops at dawn Thursday kidnapped two Palestinian citizens from Al-Khalil city and stole jewelry and two thousands shekels from a house in Idna town.
In Burin village, south of Nablus city, armed Jewish settlers and troops on Wednesday evening attacked the village and fired tear gas grenades at the Palestinian residents who defended themselves without any reported injuries.