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Subject: [NYTr] USrael—DIME Bomb: Yet Another Genotoxic Weapon
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The DIME Bomb: Yet Another Genotoxic Weapon, Part I

By James Brooks, Al-Jazeerah, 5 December 2006

It's been almost five months since the first report that Israeli drone aircraft have been dropping a “mystery weapon” on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Since then, news media around the world have run stories depicting the strange and “horrific” wounds inflicted by the new bomb. The international press has spoken with Palestinian doctors and medics who say Israel's new device is a kind of chemical weapon that has significantly increased the fatality rate among the victims of Israeli attacks. (1)(2)

In mid-October, Italian investigators reported forensic evidence that suggests the new weapon may also represent the near future of US “counterinsurgency warfare”. Combined with photographs of the victims and testimony from attending doctors, this evidence points to the use of Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME). (3)

DIME is an LCD (”low collateral damage”) weapon developed at the US Air Force Research Laboratory. Publicly, it is slated for initial deployment in 2008. DIME bombs produce an unusually powerful blast within a relatively small area, spraying a superheated “micro-shrapnel” of powdered Heavy Metal Tungsten Alloy (HMTA). Scientific studies have found that HMTA is chemically toxic, damages the immune system, rapidly causes cancer, and attacks DNA (genotoxic).(4-11)

It is unfortunate that the US media have virtually blacked out the story of Israel's new weapon, not least because our own military may soon be using it in Iraq and Afghanistan. The story might also have told us something about the grossly disproportionate brutality of Israel's war on the Palestinian people—reason enough for the media to suppress it.(12)

Thanks to the intrepid Italians, the story could even have introduced Americans to their government's DIME weapons program. This three-part article will ask whether Israel is ‘testing’ US DIME bombs in the Gaza Strip, and explore the workings, dangers, and projected use of DIME weapons and their roots in depleted uranium (DU) research. These parallels will lead us to consider DIME in its historical context, as the latest innovation in the US military's long-running development of genotoxic weapons.

“They cannot return to life again”

The first reports about ‘Israel's new weapon’ came from Dr Joma Al-Saqqa, chief of the emergency unit at Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa. Dr. Al-Saqqa said that Israel was using “a new ‘chemical’ weapon” and its siege was “a live exercise on a new ammunition that, so far, has resulted in killing 50 Palestinians and injuring 200.” He observed that, “despite the damage in internal soft tissue in the bodies of injured people, the fragments were not detected by X-ray. In other words, they had disappeared or dissolved inside the body.”(13)

“There were usually entry and exit wounds,” Dr. Al-Saqqa reported. “When the wounds were explored no foreign material was found. There was tissue death, the extent of which was difficult to determine. A higher deep infection rate resulted with subsequent amputation. In spite of amputation there was a higher mortality.” (14) The effects of the weapon seemed “radioactive”. (15) According to Palestine News Network, Dr. Al-Saqqa “confirmed that there were dozens of wounded legs and arms. Many of them had been burned from the inside, and distorted to the point that they cannot return to life again.”(16)

“When the shrapnel hit[s] the body, it causes very strong burns that destroy the tissues around the bones… it burns and destroys internal organs, like the liver, kidneys, and the spleen and other organs and makes saving the wounded almost impossible. As a surgeon, I have seen thousands of wounds during the Intifada, but nothing was like this weapon.”(17)

However, Dr. Al-Saqqa could not analyze the chemistry of the bizarre wounds. On the first day of the siege, June 27, Israel had conveniently destroyed Gaza's only criminal laboratory. (18) Despite his pleas to the “international community” to investigate and lend assistance in treating the victims, “no one has lifted a finger”, the doctor was quoted in mid-July. “What we found were journalists who came to take pictures, but as for the medical community, nothing.” (19)

On August 3, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reported that Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd had visited Dr. Al-Saqqa's hospital, “where the staff is struggling to deal with wounds resulting in an unusually high number of amputations.” Commissioner AbuZayd commented that “what we saw in Al-Shifa…was rather horrific.” (20)

According to Merlin (Medical Emergency Relief International), “75 per cent of war-wounded patients admitted at one hospital needed amputations” following an Israeli attack on Gaza City. (21)

The World Health Organization was reportedly considering an investigation into the injuries. Physicians for Human Rights—Israel “agreed to take away fragments of tissue from the bodies of Palestinians killed during the recent military operations in Gaza for possible analysis in Israel but urged the medics to seek an international investigation.” (22)

Tungsten in Tissue Samples: A DIME Weapon?

On October 19, Italy's Rai24news televised an investigative report that supplied crucial new information. The Italian investigators had tissue samples from the victims in Gaza analyzed by Dr. Carmela Vaccaio at University Parma. Dr. Vaccaio reportedly found “a very high concentration of carbon and the presence of unusual materials, such as copper, aluminum and tungsten.” The doctor concluded that her “findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question is DIME.”

Rai24news reporters also talked to Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, former chief of the IDF's weapons development program. General Ben-Israel appeared to be familiar with DIME weapons. He explained that, “one of the ideas is to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons.” (23) The US Air Force refers to this emerging realm of weaponry as FLM (Focused Lethality Munitions). FLM is expected to provide the ‘weapons of choice’ for targeting “terrorists hiding among civilians”, as a cheerleading Wall Street Journal article put it. (24)

With “focused lethality [and] higher energy materials…nano particles, intelligent fuzing, [and] mass focus lethality”, the Air Force “will be able to strike effectively, wherever and whenever necessary, with minimal collateral damage.” Ominously, the military thinks these weapons will allow it to target sites “previously off limits to the warfighter.” (25)(26)

This warfare of the future is reminiscent of what Israel has been doing for years, but with one-ton bombs, 155-mm artillery shells, and tank-fired antipersonnel flechette bombs. Are FLM weapons like DIME an improvement? Or will they actually increase civilian casualties and suffering, and mimic depleted uranium weapons by inducing disease and genetic damage in their victims? These disturbing questions will be explored in the next installment of this article.


1) Palestinian injuries suggest Israel is using chemical weapons in Gaza Ma’an News, 7/10/2006

2) Israel used chemical weapons in Lebanon and Gaza By Jean Shaoul, Centre for Research on Globalization/, 10/24/2006

3) Italian TV: Israel used new weapon prototype in Gaza Strip Ha’aretz, 10/19/2006

4) Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME), 10/18/2006

5) Abstract: Potential late health effects of depleted uranium and tungsten used in armor-piercing munitions: comparison of neoplastic transformation and genotoxicity with the known carcinogen nickel Miller, AC, et al, PubMed, 11/26/2006

6) Neoplastic transformation of human osteoblast cells to the tumorigenic phenotype by heavy metal-tungsten alloy particles: induction of genotoxic effects Miller, AC, et al Carcinogenesis, Vol. 22, No. 1, 115-125, January 2001, Oxford University Press

7) Abstract: Carcinogenic Potential of Depleted Uranium and Tungsten Alloys Alexandra C Miller, Ph. D., Department Of Defense, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI)

8) Depleted uranium-catalyzed oxidative DNA damage: absence of significant alpha particle decay Miller, AC, et al, Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, Issue 91, 2002 pp. 246-252

9) Embedded Weapons-Grade Tungsten Alloy Shrapnel Rapidly Induces Metastatic High-Grade Rhabdomyosarcomas in F344 Rats Kalinich et al, Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 113, Number 6, June 2005

10) Abstract: Effect of the militarily-relevant heavy metals, depleted uranium and heavy metal tungsten-alloy on gene expression in human liver carcinoma cells (HepG2) By Miller, AC, et al, SpringerLink/Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 1/1/2004

11) Preconceptional paternal exposure to radiation or heavy metals like cadmium can induce cancer in unexposed offspring By Alexandra C. Miller, Rafael Rivas, Robert J. Merlot and Paul, Carcinogenesis 5: Environmental and Endogenous Carcinogens/Proc Amer Assoc Cancer Res, Volume 47, 2006>

12) If Americans Knew>

13) Israel ‘is using chemical ammunition’ in Gaza By Duraid Al Baik, Centre for Research on Globalization/Gulf News, 6/13/2006

14) Are New Weapons Being Used In Gaza and Lebanon By David Halpin MB BS FRCS, Electronic Intifada, 8/14/2006

15) Ministry of Health report on toxic Israeli weapons confirmed by Gaza City medical sources Palestine News Network, 7/13/2006

16) ibid.

17) Doctors Report Unusual Weapon Used in Gaza Pacifica/Free Speech Radio News 7/11/2006

18) Israel ‘is using chemical ammunition’ in Gaza Centre for Research on Globalization/Gulf News, 6/13/2006

19) Ministry of Health report on toxic Israeli weapons confirmed by Gaza City medical sources Palestine News Network, 7/13/2006

20) UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd: “Please don’t forget what's going on in Gaza” ReliefWeb/UNRWA, 8/3/2006

21) Hospitals in Gaza overwhelmed and running out of supplies Electronic Intifada/Merlin, 8/8/2006

22) Gaza doctors encounter ‘unexplained injuries' Donald Macintyre, The Independent 9/4/2006

23) Italian TV: Israel used new weapon prototype in Gaza Strip Ha’aretz, 10/12/2006

24) Air Force seeks a bomb with less bang By Greg Jaffe, The Wall Street Journal/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/11/2006

25) Munition Technology Drivers By Col. Thomas “Mas” Masiell, Air Force Research Laboratory, 12/1/2006

26) USAF Unfunded Priority List (UPL) SAF/FMB POC, FY 2007, February 2006, Page 54