Use of U.S.-Manufactured Tear Gas in the Occupied Territories

NSIAD-89-128: Published: Apr 13, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 13, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) use of U.S.-manufactured tear gas in the Palestinian-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, focusing on: (1) medical evidence on the effects of tear gas; (2) U.S. laws and policies relating to tear gas exports and their application to restrict tear gas exports on other occasions; and (3) the Department of State's rationale in considering allegations of IDF tear gas misuse and whether such exports should continue.

GAO found that: (1) in 1988, State received various allegations that IDF misused tear gas designed for outdoor use by throwing it into enclosed spaces or aiming it directly into crowds; (2) medical evidence generally concluded that, when properly handled, tear gas was one of the most humane forms of riot control and was intended for crowd dispersal, rather than for punishment; (3) although State had not invoked export sanctions on any particular country, it had disapproved individual license applications for exports to various countries, including applications for the sale of tear gas; (4) although State reviewed specific allegations of IDF tear gas misuse in the occupied territories, there was insufficient evidence to suspend tear gas exports; and (5) the U.S. manufacturer suspended tear gas sales to Israel for a 4-month period in 1988 until Israel provided assurances of proper usage.

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