Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 10:36 UK

New Israeli weapon kicks up stink

By Wyre Davies
BBC News, Jerusalem

Awwad Sror after being hit by rubber-coated bullets
Ni'lin is scene of frequent violent clashes between troops and protesters

Three weeks ago, Israeli soldiers burst into Awwad Sror's small family home in the Palestinian West Bank town of Nilin.

Mr Sror's family say that when he intervened as troops arrested his younger brother, Aqal, he was shot from close range with at least three rubber-coated steel bullets.

One hit him in the chest, another smashed his jaw, while a third entered his right eye socket and fractured his skull.

Mr Sror, a married father of three, is lucky to be alive. But he has lost the sight in his right eye.

Israel has investigated the incident and has concluded that the soldier who fired the shots acted properly when Mr Sror tried to stop his brother being taken away.

The family argues it was an excessive use of force.


In and around Nilin there are regular, sometimes violent, protests against the continued building of Israel's West Bank barrier which snakes around a new Jewish settlement on the other side of the small valley.

BBC News correspondent Wyre Davies after smelling Skunk
Our correspondent says Skunk is the worst thing he has ever smelled

Acutely aware of accusations that it is using disproportionate force in political hot-spots like Nilin, Israel is deploying a new, non-lethal but highly effective and highly-offensive weapon.

It's called Skunk.

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.

The beauty of Skunk - if beauty is the right word - is that it is said to be completely organic.

'Secret' ingredients

No illegal chemicals, no proscribed substances - just a thoroughly disgusting mix of yeast, baking powder and a few other "secret" ingredients.

Superintendent David Ben Harosh
It's totally harmless, you can even drink it
Superintendent David Ben Harosh

The Israeli police force has high hopes of turning Skunk into a commercial venture and selling it to law-enforcement agencies overseas.

Superintendent David Ben Harosh treats Skunk as something of a pet project. The way he hugged the litre bottle of dirty, green liquid close to his chest as we talked was odd - most people would surely keep it at arm's length.

"It's totally harmless, you can even drink it," boasted Superintendent Harosh - as though encouraging me to swallow a mouthful.

Reporters will sometimes go the "extra mile" to add authenticity to their story, but not this time. No way.

For human rights groups, the jury is still out on Skunk. They object to the arbitrary way in which innocent bystanders can be soaked with the stuff - having to suffer for days afterwards.

Then again, protestors and villagers are still being killed and seriously injured in the West Bank by more conventional weapons.

As unpleasant and as disgusting as it is, being sprayed with Skunk may ultimately be preferable to being hit by a rubber-coated bullet or choking and vomiting under the effects of tear-gas or pepper-spray.

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