Palestinians Cheer as an Israeli ‘Skunk Truck’ Falls into a Ravine, But What Is It Exactly?

A video showing an Israeli ‘Skunk truck’ falling into a ravine in Jerusalem to the joy and cheers of Palestinian bystanders has surfaced online and immediately went viral.

The shaky footage, taken by children, shows the vehicle spraying ‘skunk’ on a neighbourhood. Speaking in Arabic, a child exclaims at the beginning of video saying the vehicle is approaching their home and asks if the doors and windows are shut.

According to the Electronic Intifada:

The video has circulated widely on social media and was posted earlier today on the Facebook page of Quds News Network. Wattan TV reported that the skunk truck was deployed after youths went into the streets of the al-Tur neighborhood to protest ongoing detentions by occupation police.

When the two Palestinian boys filming the scene realized what had happened, they screamed ‘Takbir’ and ‘Allahu Akbar’, both common cries of both celebration and desperation (depending on the situation), in Palestine as well as across the Arab and Muslim world. As one of the moderators of Reddit's r/CombatFootage for the critical study of war footage explained in a dedicated post:

The term itself serves as a reminder for a Muslim, that no matter the situation or emotion that one experiences, that God is always greater. If you’re happy, then it serves as a reminder that God is greater than everything and that your success and source of happiness comes from God. If you’re scared, then you say it as a reminder that God is indeed greater and that the only fear a Muslim should have is towards God. When a Muslim is angry, he says Allahu Akbar as a way of calming himself down, reminding that God is greater than anything that makes you angry, and turn to God for your solace.

While in the West, many people clap their hands as a show of approval and praise, traditionally, most Muslims would shout the Takbir in unison as a way of showing approval and praise to a speaker. Though, many Muslims have adopted the tradition of clapping their hands, many will still shout the Takbir while clapping.

He then explained how it isn't necessarily confined to Islam:

The Takbir isn’t necessarily confined to Islam. Allah is the Arabic word for God. Many Arab Christians refer to God as “Allah”, and it is not at all uncommon to find Christian priests in the Middle East and Muslim world that would say “Allahu Akbar!” to their congregation. In fact, there were reports and videos where Maronite Christians in Lebanon would shout “Allahu Akbar!” while fighting during the Lebanese Civil War. The Maltese languages also uses the word Allah for God, despite the majority of the inhabitants of Malta are Catholic and European.

The children's cries of joy (“the truck fell!”) were soon joined by neighborhood-wide cheers and celebrations (starting at 1:10)

Journalist Marian Houk of UN-Truth released an image showing the truck after the fall.

Activist Rania Khalek called it ‘glorious':

US-based activist Remi Kanazi jokingly suggested the driver was an ‘Occupier who didn't attend driving school’

Switzerland-based Adri Nieuwhof asks German Truck manufacturer “MAN Group” to look at how their products are being used by Israel Occupation Forces

What is “The Skunk”?

First developed in 2004 by Rafael Armament Development Authority for the Israeli police to deal with the surge in organized non-violent civilian protests in the Occupied West Bank, the Skunk is a repulsive-smelling liquid that has been described as a mixture between decomposing corpses, sewage and vomit.

The Skunk liquid being used against Protesters in the Occupied West Bank. (Image by טל קינג, Wikimedia)

The Skunk liquid being used against Protesters in the Occupied West Bank.
(Image by טל קינג, Wikimedia)

Writing for the LA Times, Edmund Sanders described the Skunk liquid as such:

Is it the sickly sweet odor of decomposing flesh? A trash dump on a hot day? Vomit? Those who've been doused wax on in vain, trying to find a worthy description for the stench that won't go away, no matter how hard you scrub, for several days. Israeli soldiers call the truck the Skunk, and they say it has become one of their favorite tools in confronting the rising challenge of West Bank demonstrations.

Nabi Saleh and Noah Browning, writing for Reuters, have used similar words to describe the Skunk liquid:

Imagine taking a chunk of rotting corpse from a stagnant sewer, placing it in a blender and spraying the filthy liquid in your face. Your gag reflex goes off the charts and you can't escape, because the nauseating stench persists for days. This is “skunk”, a fearsome but non-lethal tool in Israel's arsenal of weapons for crowd control. It comes in armored tanker trucks fitted with a cannon that can spray a jet of stinking fluid over crowds who know how to cope with plain old tear gas.

Another reporter, this time Jerusalem-based Wyre Davies for the BBC, added:

“Imagine the worst, most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven’t been washed for weeks – topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer. . .Imagine being covered in the stuff as it is liberally sprayed from a water cannon. Then imagine not being able to get rid of the stench for at least three days, no matter how often you try to scrub yourself clean.”

Despite the smell, the Skunk can cause pain, redness, irritation and abdominal pain requiring medical treatment. Indeed, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel described it in the following manner:

Apart from the repulsive nausea-inducing stench, the skunk liquid can cause pain and redness if it comes into contact with eyes, irritation if it comes into contact with skin and if swallowed can cause abdominal pain requiring medical treatment.

Israeli NGO for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories B'TSelem added:

Exposure to the Skunk in the quantities ordinarily used at demonstrations does not pose health hazards, but can cause nausea and vomiting. Security forces often spray the liquid at homes and yards, making it very difficult to get rid of the persistent smell. These actions raise suspicions that the Skunk is being used punitively against villages where regular weekly demonstrations are held.

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