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Updated Friday, October 9, 1998

Crashed airliner carried chemical used in nerve gas

Friday 2 October 1998

By Paul Marston, Transport Correspondent

AN Israeli cargo plane that crashed into a block of flats in Amsterdam six years ago was carrying a chemical used to make the lethal nerve gas sarin, it emerged in Amsterdam yesterday.

The disaster, which involved an El Al Boeing 747, killed four crew and 39 people on the ground. Hundreds of residents living near the site have complained of unexplained illnesses.

The Dutch government confirmed that the aircraft, which had just made an intermediate stop in Amsterdam en route between New York and Tel Aviv, had 42 gallons of dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP) on board.

The chemical is regarded as a crucial component for sarin, which was used in a terrorist attack on the Tokyo gas underground in 1995, killing six passengers and harming more than 3,000.

Israeli flagThe flight's dangerous goods shipping declaration named the destination for the chemical as the Israel Institute for Biological Research, near Tel Aviv. The institute is alleged to be a military facility.

The Israeli government has accused Syria, Iraq and Iran of developing chemical and bacteriological arms but has never acknowledged that it has its own programme for weapons of mass destruction. There have been concerns about the content of the cargo hold ever since the crash, which occurred after one of the aircraft's engines sheared off.

Six months ago, the Dutch Health Ministry ordered an inquiry into claims that exposure to depleted uranium, used as wing ballast, had led to health problems in local people and rescue workers. Health officials pledged yesterday to widen their investigation to include any effects from DMMP.

Transport officials said details of the shipping declaration had been passed to parliament two years ago, but MPs complained that the significance of the cargo had not been explained.


El Al 747-200

   Dutch politicians were shocked that the documents were under their noses for more than two years.

A spokesman for the Liberals, who govern in coalition with Labour said: "It's possible that parliament itself should shoulder some of the blame. Strange things have happened." El Al said that it had told the Dutch authorities what the cargo contained immediately after the accident. A spokesman said: "We have not tried to hide anything."

Shaul Yahalom, the Israeli Transport Minister, ordered the Civil Aviation Authority to investigate what was in the hold of the plane after a Dutch newspaper reported that it carried the chemicals. Nachman Klieman, an El Al spokesman, said: "The cargo documentation states that DMMP was on the plane, that it was packed in accordance with the international regulations governing uplift of this material and the document was signed by the captain of the aircraft stating that everything was in order prior to departure. All these documents were turned over to the Dutch authorities following the accident."

The man who headed Israel's investigation of the crash, Reserve Maj-Gen Amos Lapidot, asked if DMMP was part of the cargo, told Israel's army radio: "It is possible that was part of the cargo, so what? They are chemicals that are used for various purposes and known throughout the world. We don't buy chemical weapons materials from abroad. This is nonsense."  


© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 1998.
Our opinion
  WE ARE SHOCKED -- AND PUZZLED. Since Israel, unlike Saddam Hussein, does not possess weapons of mass destruction (right?), these chemicals can only have been destined for the nerve-poisons used in hypodermic syringes by agents of The Mossad with prime minister Binjamin Netanyahu's blessing to dispatch controversial politicians in friendly neighbouring countries like Jordan. But forty gallons? How many killer-shots would that have provided?

History Note: Adolf Hitler's scientists had manufactured thirty thousand tons of the secret nerve gases Sarin and Tabun by the end of WW.II, but although they would have given his troops a clear tactical advantage, on his orders these gases (K-Stoffe) were not used. He refused to be the first to initiate poison-gas warfare, the documents show. Winston Churchill ... well, that's different story.


London, Sunday, October 4, 1998

Israeli jets equipped for chemical warfare

by Uzi Mahnaimi

ISRAELI assault aircraft have been equipped to carry chemical and biological weapons manufactured at a top secret institute near Tel Aviv, military sources revealed yesterday. Crews of F-16 fighters have been trained to fit an active chemical or biological weapon within minutes of receiving the command to attack, they said.

The weapons are manufactured at the Institute for Biological Research in a suburb of Nes Ziona 12 miles southeast of Tel Aviv.

The plant attracted unwanted scrutiny last week when the Dutch authorities confirmed that it was the intended destination of 42 gallons of a chemical called DMMP aboard an El Al 747-200 that crashed into high-rise flats in Amsterdam six years ago, killing the four crew and 39 people on the ground. The chemical is used in the manufacture of sarin nerve gas, and local inhabitants have complained of health problems since the crash.

The Israeli plant manufactures not only chemical and biological weapons for use in bombs, but more unusual arms as well. It supplied the poison for a bizarre attempt last year on the life of Khaled Meshal, a leader of the Hamas Islamic fundamentalist group.

Agents of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, sprayed a liquid into his ear as he arrived at his office in Amman, the Jordanian capital. If one of Meshal's bodyguards had not chased and caught the agents, the mysterious chemical would have caused Meshal to die within days of apparent heart failure. Instead, the institute was forced to supply an antidote when King Hussein of Jordan threatened to put the captured Israelis on trial.


Israel has accused Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iran of developing chemical and biological weapons, but has never acknowledged its own programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The Jewish state signed but never ratified the chemical weapons convention, a treaty that prohibits countries from developing, producing, stockpiling or using such weapons. The Israeli programme for weapons has been an open secret for years.

"There is hardly a single known or unknown form of chemical or biological weapon ... which is not manufactured at the institute," said a biologist who once held a senior post in Israeli intelligence.

The institute is one of the most secretive in Israel. Founded in 1952 as a single building hidden in an orange grove, it now sprawls over several acres. It is surrounded by a 6ft-high concrete wall topped with sensors that reveal the exact location of any intruder but is erased from local and aerial survey maps.

Official publications disguise its more sinister activities, indicating merely that the institute provides services to the defence ministry as well as chemicals for agriculture and research for civilian companies.

Following rumours about risks to the neighbourhood from toxins, members of the parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee asked to visit the plant. They were denied access.

Nes Ziona's mayor won a temporary injunction last week freezing plans to expand the institute by 14 acres. His anxiety is wellfounded. Accidents at the plant have killed at least six workers but details have been protected by military I censorship.

© Copyright of Times Newspapers Limited 1998.
The Independent on Sunday

London, October 4, 1998

Israel fails to calm Dutch anger over 'nerve gas' crash

From Katherine Butler in Brussels

IT WAS AROUND Songs of Praise time on a Sunday evening. The residents of the Bijlmermeer flats would probably have been pottering around at home, getting dinner, thinking about the week ahead, watching TV. There was a good football match on; top Dutch clubs Eindhoven and Feyenoord were playing.

Norma Habibi had popped out to the night shop for something, leaving her two toddlers with the woman next door. Turning the corner of the estate on her way back she heard a low drone and looked up to see "a terrible black shadow" fall over the block of flats. The drone turned to a roar like thunder. Then there was a ball of fire and before her eyes an El Al Boeing 747 cargo plane on its way from New York to Tel Aviv ploughed into the building.

The worst air crash in the history of the Netherlands, six years ago today, turned the Amsterdam apartment complex into a hell-like inferno in seconds, killing Norma Habibi's two children and 41 of her neighbours. Six years on, the surviving residents of the suburb are suffering physical ailments which their doctors have long suspected, and which new revelations last week appear to confirm, were caused by exposure to something more sinister than burning perfume, paints or electronic equipment.

El Al, the Israeli state airline, admitted last week it was also carrying three of the four chemical ingredients needed to make the odourless, highly toxic nerve agent sarin, the gas Saddam Hussein used against the Kurds in Iraq and which killed a dozen people in the Tokyo metro in 1995.

People in Amsterdam were appalled but not surprised. Rumours have been circulating for years that the men in coveralls and gas masks who appeared mysteriously at the site after the crash were from Mossad, the Israeli secret service.[*]

Prompted by Dutch newspaper reports and a statement from El Al, the Israeli government admitted on Thursday there was a quantity of dimethyl methylphosphonate or DMMT on board, but denied the plane carried any "dangerous goods".

The material was destined for "testing filters", a statement from the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

Freight papers for the El Al flight indicate that 190 litres of DMMT were on board the plane -- enough, when combined with two other chemicals in the cargo, to generate more than a quarter of a tonne of sarin.

The materials, purchased from a US plant, were bound for the Institute for Biological Research in the Israeli town of Nes Ziona south of Tel Aviv. Israel has never admitted producing chemical or biological weapons and has signed, but not ratified, the International Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Jan Medema, who heads a team of chemical weapons inspectors and directs the toxic substances division at the Dutch defence research institute in The Hague, is concerned about the quantity of DMMT, the presence of two other substances (isopropanol and hydrogen fluoride) and the destination of the cargo.

Dr Medema believes that the volume of DMMT in itself was too big for routine experiments at a research lab. "We have been trying to think what possible research purposes you would need this compound in such large quantities for. The likelihood has to be that it was for sarin. Either they had some special plan for an experiment or they needed a quantity of sarin for some special purpose. This raises many questions."

Responding to the outcry, the Dutch government has ordered a full public inquiry. Beyond the chemicals which were identified last week and some ordinary industrial goods, mystery still surrounds one third of the cargo.

When and if the answers come they will be of interest not just to the sick people of Bijlmermeer and Nes Ziona (who have also been demanding to know what goes on there) but to anyone alarmed at the build-up of chemical and biological weapons in a region as volatile as the Middle East.

© 1998 The Independent on Sunday

* ACTION REPORT No. 13 commented on the TV newsreel images of similar appartions, in Hassidic garb, scouring the still smouldering crater where the Boeing 747 of Flight Pan-Am 101 crashed at Lockerbie.


London, Friday, October 9, 1998




DUTCH PRIME Minister Wim Kok this week accused Israel of "being secretive" about the cargo of an El Al plane which crashed on to an Amsterdam housing estate in 1992, killing 43 people.

His criticism followed reports in the Dutch press that the El Al jumbo had been carrying 190 litres -- 50 galIons -- of a component of the lethal nerve gas, Sarin.

Israel officials confirmed the plane was carrying di-methyl methylphosphonate (DMPP), one of four chemi-cals used in the manufacture of Sarin, but said the Dutch had been aware of this from the cargo manifest.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's spokesman, Aviv Bushinsky, said last Friday that the DMMP was on its way from the US to the top-secret Biological Research Institute in Ness Ziona, south of Tel Aviv.

"The chemical was intended to test filters," Mr Bush-insky said, "including the filters for gas masks. The shipment was lost in the crash and a replacement shipment was ordered and safely arrived at its destination."

The spokesman stressed that DMMP was not itself toxic and was used for a number of industrial purposes.[*]

Doctors near the crash site have claimed that about 300 people have health problems resulting from the crash.

Patients themselves have blamed anxiety attacks, ex-haustion, pain, rashes, and many other chronic complaints on the disaster. 

[* Website comment: As was Zyklon-B].

© Copyright Jewish Chronicle 1998

The above news items are reproduced without editing other than typographical
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