Israeli army investigating Jawaher Abu Rahma tear-gas incident in West Bank

By Joel Greenberg
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, January 5, 2011; 5:36 PM

JERUSALEM - The Israeli army, which had questioned reports by Palestinian witnesses and doctors that tear gas led to the death of a woman after a protest against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank on Friday, said Wednesday that it is still conducting its own inquiry into the death and will make an announcement after its completion.

Military officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, had earlier suggested that an existing medical condition might have contributed to 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahma's death. Family members said she had complained late last month of dizziness and headaches but had been treated successfully for an inner ear infection after a CT brain scan showed normal results.

Witnesses said that Abu Rahma, who had walked out of her home in the village of Bilin to watch stone-throwing skirmishes between local youths and Israeli soldiers, was overcome by tear gas that wafted toward her. Witnesses said she was vomiting and foaming at the mouth.

A report from the Ramallah hospital where she was treated said that she died of gas inhalation and that she had no history of chronic disease.

The army said the Palestinian medical reports "raise many questions and doubts," and it described Palestinian cooperation in investigating the incident as "poor."

Greenberg is a special correspondent.

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