Palestine: Death in Bethlehem, Made in America

Publisher Name: 
The Independent (U.K.)

Lockheed Martin of Florida and the Federal Laboratories of
Pennsylvania have made quite a contribution to life in the municipality of
Bethlehem. Or, in the case of Lockheed, death. Pieces of the US
manufacturer's Hellfire air-to-ground missile lie in the local civil
defence headquarters in Bethlehem less than two months after it exploded in
18-year-old Osama Khorabi's living room, killing him instantly. The missile
engine, fuel pipe and shreds of the wiring system have been sorted into
plastic bags by ambulance drivers and paramedics, alongside shrapnel from
dozens of US-made fuses for shells fired by Israeli tanks into the
Christian village of Beit Jalla.

Israeli troops also regularly fire American-made CS gas rounds at
Palestinians in Bethlehem itself. Palestinians claim the gas has caused
serious breathing difficulties among children after the rounds were fired
at stone-throwing youths near Rachel's tomb. The cartridges and gas
canisters are labelled "Federal Laboratories, Saltsburg, Pennsylvania
15681" and are stated on the metal to be "long range projectiles 150
yards". The rounds, show the US manufacturers' instructions on the side,
contain "tear gas which is highly irritating to eyes, nose, skin and
respiratory system". And continue: "If exposed, do not rub eyes, seek
medical assistance immediately."

The Israeli tank crews routinely send shells into Beit Jalla when
Palestinian gunmen fire Russian-made Kalashnikov rifles from the village at
the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Gilo - itself illegally built on land
belonging to the people of Beit Jalla - and most of these rounds have US
fuses. All are coded: "FUZE P18D M549ACO914H014-014" (in some cases the
last digit reads "5"). One of these shells killed Dr Harald Fischer, a
German citizen living in Beit Jalla, last November. But the name of the
firm making these fuses is not included in the code.

Lockheed has already been implicated in the massacre of four children
and two women in Lebanon when an Israeli Apache helicopter, made by
Lockheed, fired a Lockheed-made Hellfire 1 missile into an ambulance in
southern Lebanon in 1996. Computer plates from the air-to-ground rocket -
whose advertising logo read: "All For One and One For All"- were
subsequently taken to the US by the Independent on Sunday and identified as
a Hellfire, by Boeing executives who were then joint-makers of the missile.

The engine of the missile which struck Osama Khorabi's home in
February (it was, say the Israelis, a "pre-emptive strike" against the
village although Mr Khorabi was no militant and his only ambition was to
join the Beit Jalla theatre project) survives. It carries the coding: "189
76-1334987 DMW90E003-007" and its "lot" number (the batch of missiles from
which it comes) is 481. On a small steel tube at the top of the engine is
the code: "12903-9225158 MFR-5S443." A small, heavy cylindrical dome which
appears to come from the same projectile is labelled "Battery Thermal" and
carries the code: "P/N 10217556 E-W62, Lot No. EPH-2-111, Date of MFG
(manufacture) 08776, MFG Code 81855". The codes are followed by the
initials: "U.S." Other missile parts include damaged fragments of a hinged
fin and a mass of wiring.

Palestinian civil defence workers are ambulance drivers and
paramedics; they have dutifully collected thousands of pieces of shrapnel
from bullets, tank rounds, gas projectiles and missiles after Israeli
bombardments, but without trying to discover their provenance. "We are
humanitarian workers, not scientists," one of them told me in Bethlehem
yesterday. Many of the fragments carry codings in the Roman alphabet and
appear to be also of American manufacture. They include what looks a
missile part coded "SPO 2- 95 RAD (then a digit obliterated during the
rocket's explosion) - 89".

The Israelis used Apache helicopters to fire missiles into Beit Jalla
on at least six occasions - including the one that killed Mr Khorabi - and
the Apaches are made by Lockheed at their massive arms plant at Orlando,
Florida, home of the Hellfire 1 and 2 missiles.

Palestinians are still trying to discover the nature of a gas
canister now regularly used by Israelis containing what they call "brown
smoke". Obviously feared by stone-throwers, it is described as having a far
more potent effect even than the Federal Laboratories' Pennsylvania-made
gas. At least one gas canister found in Bethlehem is covered in Hebrew
markings and carries the code 323 1-99. It does not appear to be of US
manufacture.

American arms makers deny all responsibility when their weapons have
slaughtered innocent civilians. Lockheed's scornful reaction to the 1996
Hellfire-1 bloodbaths in southern Lebanon was to point out that "no one has
ever sued a bullet-manufacturer" after a murder. And it's true that the
last words stamped on the Pennsylvania gas cartridges, after a warning that
they must not be fired at individuals, make the usual disclaimers. "Federal
Laboratories," it says, "will assume no responsibility for the misuse of
this device."

AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering
  • 9 Lockheed Martin
  • 19 Weapons Makers
  • 124 War & Disaster Profiteering