Death in Bethlehem, Made in America

Palestine: Death in Bethlehem, Made in America
By Robert Fisk in Bethlehem
The Independent (UK)
April 15, 2001

Lockheed Martin of Florida and the Federal Laboratories of Pennsylvania
have made quite a contribution to life in the municipality of 

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 

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."


Back To Islam Awareness Homepage

Latest News about Islam and Muslims

Contact for further information