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Scientist Questions Group’s WMD Claim

Global Security Newswire

A U.S. scientist yesterday expressed doubts about a Palestinian militant group’s claim to have produced biological and chemical weapons (see GSN, June 26).

The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades distributed a leaflet on the Gaza Strip claiming in the last three years to have developed 20 biological and chemical weapons. It threatened to use the weapons following any Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip.

“It is impossible to manufacture that many chemical and biological weapons in three years without an army of scientists and laboratories,” said Michael Stebbins, director of the Biosecurity Project at the Federation of American Scientists. “They would need a very sophisticated program with very skilled workers.”

Such an effort would have been “easily identifiable” Stebbins added.

However, certain toxins could be “made by almost everyone” he said. Ricin — which is two times as deadly as cobra venom — could be produced from materials found in the kitchen, Stebbins said (see GSN, June 2).

Stebbins said the group could be working with “some failed academic scientists.”

“It is possible, though not probable, that Aqsa may have managed to acquire certain chemicals,” he said.

The threat is being taken seriously in Israel, the Sun reported.

“This is a dangerous development in the region and Israel must take the right measures,” said David Saranga, the consul for public affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in New York (Shalin Punn, The New York Sun, June 27).