A building in the dirt

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[Source: al-monitor.com]

The buildings and the people in them are burning while the soil, sea, air, and groundwater are being poisoned in Gaza.

Joshua Frank’s article, Making Gaza Unlivable ought to be read by everyone. Frank is the managing editor of CounterPunch. He describes the collapsing infrastructure and dire circumstances of Gaza in this January 12 story:

“Like the Allied forces of World War II, Israel is killing indiscriminately. Of the 29,000 air-to-surface munitions fired, 40% have been unguided bombs dropped on crowded residential areas. The U.N. estimates that, as of late December, 70% of all schools in Gaza, many of which served as shelters for Palestinians fleeing Israel’s onslaught, had been severely damaged. Hundreds of mosques and churches have also been struck and 70% of Gaza’s 36 hospitals have been hit and are no longer functioning. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Israel is using a lack of food and drinking water as a tool of warfare.”

We’ll examine the deadly contamination that accompanies the Israeli onslaught, starting with Aljazeera’s coverage.

Al Jazeera reports: “Thousands upon thousands of Israeli and Western-supplied bombs dropped on Gaza bring not just death but a toxic legacy from explosive chemicals, dust, and debris from destroyed buildings that pollute the air and the ground. Israel’s military offensive in Gaza is leaving a new layer of toxic chemicals in Gaza’s soil, adding to those left behind from many wars it has waged before.”

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Nada Majdalani is the Palestinian director of EcoPeace Middle East, an organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists. [Source: aljazeera.com]

Nada Majdalani described the situation: “We are at the verge of an environmental catastrophe in terms of the spread of diseases and the accumulation of corpses in the streets. This makes Gaza susceptible to pandemic diseases.”

She continued: “We are seeing collective amounts of threats to the environment and to the public health. The Israelis are utilizing chemical weapons like white phosphorus. This is affecting the air pollution. The residue from white phosphorus bombs is now in the atmosphere. With the rainy season we expect that these residues will precipitate with the rain. Unfortunately, many people are now utilizing rainwater for drinking. People are also drinking untreated, salty water. This is dangerous for people with kidney and liver diseases. There is a danger of parasitic infections, hepatitis, and chicken pox.”

Majdalani explained that 97% of Gaza’s aquifer was unfit for human consumption before the war. Now, she says there are tremendous problems regarding solid waste and wastewater due to the shortage of fuels necessary to operate treatment plants. Consequently, untreated sewage is entering the Gaza Sea and is draining into the streets.

Now, there are reports that the Israeli military is pumping fuel and seawater into the tunnels throughout Gaza, a death blow to the drinking water aquifer.

Heavy metals like lead, zinc, chromium, copper, platinum, titanium, cadmium, nickel, and vanadium may be coursing through the streets and flushing into the sea, along with PFAS and phosphorus. Wastewater treatment facilities everywhere on Earth are conduits for chemical contamination even when they are working properly. 

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Raw sewage is flooding the streets and polluting the sea in Gaza. [Source: youtube.com]

According to AP News, blast fragments found on-site show that the vast majority of bombs dropped on Gaza are U.S.-made. The weapons include 2,000-pound “bunker-busters” that have killed thousands in densely populated areas.

A group of bombs on a ship

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2000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) are transported to the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman on March 21, 2003, in the Mediterranean Sea. The bombs were used in Iraq. [Source: bloomberg.com]

The JDAM bombs include precision-guided 1,000 and 2,000-pound “bunker-busters.”

“It turns earth to liquid,” said Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon defense official and a war crimes investigator for the U.N. “It pancakes entire buildings.”

Washington has “donated” 100 BLU-109 bombs to Israel that are meant to penetrate hardened structures before exploding, the report said.

The 2,000-pound BLU-109 bomb was specifically designed to kill civilians by penetrating hardened targets below the ground where families may be taking cover. A delayed-action fuse detonates the 550 pounds of high explosive tritonal, ensuring complete destruction of the location. 


Tritonal is made up mostly of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, known as TNT. It accounts for a large portion of the explosives-related contamination in Gaza. TNT presents various health and environmental concerns. Potential symptoms of exposure may include irritation of the skin and mucous membrane, liver damage, jaundice, cyanosis, peripheral neuropathy, muscle pain, kidney damage, cataract, dermatitis, leukocytosis, anemia and cardiac irregularities. (NIOSH 2016)

The most likely routes of exposure to TNT are from drinking contaminated water or skin contact with contaminated surface water or soil. Potential exposure to TNT also occurs through inhalation, or by eating crops grown in contaminated soil (ATSDR 1995) The European Chemicals Agency, ECHA says this substance may cause cancer, is suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child, and is suspected of causing genetic defects.

General Dynamics has made enormous profits peddling this deadly substance. The company employs more than 100,000 people worldwide and generated $42.3 billion in revenues in 2023, more than the annual gross national product of most nations on Earth. (115 nations).

A kind of false circular reasoning holds that manufacturing weapons for use in Israel by Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and others is good for the American economy. Actually, the weapons are provided to Israel at U.S taxpayer expense while the product of the munitions adds nothing of positive value, like building hospitals or rebuilding crumbling infrastructure in the U.S. or Gaza.

Gabriel Black with the World Socialist Website has compiled an excellent survey of the weapons the U.S. provides to Israel. Data from Reuters, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Al Jazeera suggest this fleet consists of:

  • F-35s manufactured by Lockheed Martin
  • F-16s by General Dynamics and Lockheed,
  • F-15s made by McDonnell Douglas/Boeing. 

These warplanes are equipped with bombs, missiles and guidance kits largely manufactured in the United States.

According to Al Jazeera, Israel has dropped 25,000 tons of explosives—about double the power of the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in World War II.

RDX Is Also a Killer

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The explosive compound RDX helped make America a superpower. Now, it is poisoning the world’s water and soil. [Source: features.propublica.org]

The explosive charge in many conventional bombs often consists of RDX. Gazans may be exposed if they breathe RDX fumes from explosions. People may also be exposed to RDX by drinking contaminated water or by touching contaminated soil. RDX is associated with liver injuries, edema, anemia, hemosiderosis and spinal diseases

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November 6, 2023: 75 anti-militarist youth organizers blocked all entrances to Boeing Manufacturing Plant 598 near St. Louis, Missouri. [Source: twitter.com]

Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)

The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is an add-on kit that turns “dumb” bombs into “smart” ones. All of the world’s JDAMs are made by Boeing in a single factory in St. Louis, Missouri.

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[Source: gd.com]

More than 1,100 General Dynamics workers in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania supply weapons to Israel. Many of the factories producing weapons are organized under the United Auto Workers (UAW) or the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). It is reminiscent of the 1965 Phil Ochs song, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”:

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants…
Call it peace or call it treason
Call it love or call it reason
But I ain’t marching anymore.

The people of Gaza must do what they can to avoid breathing the smoke from bombs dropped by the Israelis. When modern apartment buildings are engulfed in flames, they emit poisonous gases. The guide below captures the science of deadly smoke inhalation.

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[Source: theredguidetorecovery.com]

The chemicals here are found in the smoke from the bombing of an apartment building.

Burning a massive apartment building may generate many thousands of toxic chemicals and gases while modern science has not been able to keep up with the adverse health effects that may result from each.

Imagine all the materials that go up in flames. These likely include plastics, foams, textiles, carpets, human and animal corpses, wood products (treated lumber, plywood, flooring), asbestos, lead, paint, synthetic fabrics, electronics, furniture, household chemicals, etc.

The asbestos is particularly concerning.

Respiratory ailments, cardiac hazards, and cancers connected with exposures to an environment affected by these fires are far greater than those a generation ago, mainly because the chemical compositions used today to manufacture products and weapons have changed dramatically. The alarming number of cancers among veterans (and their dependents) exposed to deadly chemicals on American military bases tells the story. The American and Israeli governments and their militaries are criminal enterprises.

White Phosphorus

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Smoke rises above the Gaza Strip after a white phosphorus attack by Israel on October 11, 2023. This was the first full day of Israeli atrocities when many Gazans were burned alive. [Source: commondreams.org]

Although Syria has long complained of Israel’s use of napalm, we do not have evidence of its use in Gaza, although we know the Israelis are using White Phosphorus, another frightening incendiary weapon. It is extremely toxic to humans.

Gazans are exposed to white phosphorus by breathing in air that contains the chemical or by swallowing water or food contaminated with it. White Phosphorus is a chemical made from phosphate rocks. Manufacturers use white phosphorus to make products like bombs, computer chips and rat poison. It is a brave new world.

White phosphorus bombs can cause injuries that are more serious and harder to treat than injuries from conventional bombs. White phosphorus causes very painful burns. People have reported seeing smoke coming from their injuries as the white phosphorus continues to burn under their skin. It is evil. Because white phosphorus dissolves easily in fat, it is absorbed through the skin and into the body, where it can cause damage to the kidneys. liver, and heart.

As Nada Majdalani explained, Gaza is entering its rainy season. Rainwater washout of bomb sites contaminates nearby waterways, their sediment, and the aquatic life people consume.  


Israel has a history of spraying heavy doses of pesticides along the buffer zones with Gaza to deprive potential “terror elements” of cover, but farmers in Gaza say their crops and livelihoods are damaged.

We saw Israel’s lax enforcement regarding PFAS and brominated fire retardants, so it is not surprising that the nation is swimming in pesticides. Environmental and health agencies designed to protect public health are instead subservient to the corporate national security state.

The use of pesticides and insecticides in Israeli agriculture is among the highest in the world, another factoid for the BDS folks. The most contaminated fruits and vegetables are: apples, leafy vegetables, wheat, barley, strawberries and grapes.

It is not surprising that Israel also has among the highest rates of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the world. Israeli children are widely exposed to organophosphate pesticides.

We are witnessing the maturing of a rabid fascist state. Israel is leading the way to a new world order! Addressing the rise of the far right in America, Noam Chomsky explains, “The ground is well prepared for the rise of neofascism to fill the void left by unremitting class war and capitulation of the mainstream political institutions that might have combatted the plague.”

In solidarity with the brave people of Gaza!  

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