Skunk (weapon)

"Skunk" is a malodorant, non-lethal weapon used for crowd control by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and marketed to militaries and law enforcement around the world. It was developed and is manufactured by Odortec, with two supporting companies, Man and Beit-Alfa Technologies.[1] The liquid's strong odor is marketed as an improvement over other crowd control weapons (CCWs) such as rubber bullets and tear gas used by the IDF against Palestinian protestors. The IDF is criticized for its tactics during deployment, including common use against people, businesses, and neighborhoods not involved in protests as a form of collective punishment.[2][3][4][5]

Skunk carrying vehicle, Bil'in


Deployment in Ni'lin during a demonstration in 2012

The material used is said to be an organic and non-toxic blend of baking powder, yeast, and other ingredients.[6][7] Deriving its name from the animal of the same name which is known for its ability to spray a foul-smelling fluid, "Skunk" is dispersed as a form of yellow mist, fired from a water cannon, which leaves a powerful odor similar to rot or sewage on whatever it touches. Skunk is also sold in handheld canisters and in grenades which can be thrown or fired as projectiles (see riot gun).[8] The company later marketed Skunk to law enforcement agencies worldwide, specifically American local police departments.[9] Several US police departments, including the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, purchased it.[10] A BBC reporter describes its effects as follows:

“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.”[11]

A reporter for Reuters described its effect in the following words:

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.[7]

However, when tested in India, the product failed miserably:

We used it on a captive crowd consisting of CRPF personnel and general public. But they managed to tolerate the smell without much difficulty. [...] Those who can ignore [the] smell can drink the liquid also.[12]

In December 2017, Haaretz reported:

Skunk is liable to cause physical harm, such as intense nausea, vomiting and skin rashes, in addition to any injury resulting from the powerful force of the spray. Examinations by police and army medical teams in the past also indicated that the excessive coughing caused by exposure can result in suffocation.[13]

Some report that the smell is so potent it can linger on clothes for months, if not years.[14]


The company sells a special soap, available to authorities but not the general public, that neutralises the smell of skunk water if officers are accidentally sprayed. It has been suggested that rubbing a surface contaminated with skunk with ketchup, and then washing it off, will diminish the smell.[15]


Skunk in action against targets in Bil'in

The first attempts at developing an odor-based form of crowd control began in Israel in 2004 by Rafael. The IDF reconsidered at the time a change in its open fire procedures, and adopting other crowd dispersal methods after an Israeli demonstrator, Gil Na'amati (21), was shot during a protest over the separation barrier, near the West Bank village of Mas-ha in late 2003.[16][17] It reportedly does not wash off easily and may linger on clothes for up to five years.[16] The development of Skunk followed numerous accusations against Israeli forces that they often employ disproportionate force in clashes with Palestinian protestors (e.g. using rubber bullets or tear gas), which has led them to seek new, non-lethal but effective methods of crowd control.[11]

Skunk was first reported to be used for crowd control in August 2008 in the Palestinian village of Ni'lin where daily protests had been taking place in response to the construction of a security barrier.[18] Spraying the liquid has developed into one of the preferred measures adopted by the IDF to meet the challenge of civil disobedience and demonstrations by Palestinians. The tactic was devised to tamp down organized civilian protests in the West Bank.[19] It has been used regularly against the villagers of Bil'in, Ni'lin, Kafr Qaddum, and Nabi Salih, where weekly protests against the occupation are practiced.[1]

In Hebron it was used on the 26 February 2012 to disperse a crowd of an estimated 1,000 people which clashed with Israeli soldiers during a protest described as commemorating the anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre or as pressing for the reopening of the zone of Shuhada Street.[20] A funeral procession waiting for the riots to be dispersed were also doused with the liquid.[21] It has been used during clashes with "Palestinian protesters calling for the release of Palestinian hunger striker Mohammad Allan near Barzilai Medical Center" in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.[22]

In 2017, Israeli forces began using Skunk against ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters.[13][23]


Among Palestinians, the liquid is known simply as "shit".[24] Amnesty International, B'Tselem, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have been critical of the IDF's use of the product. Concerns have included accusations of indiscriminate use against people, homes, and businesses not involved in demonstrations.[25][26] The IDF has also been accused of deployment in a manner described as punitive.[24][27][28] The IDF has at times sprayed Palestinian houses after protests[29] as a form of collective punishment.[30] In response to a negative B'tselem report, the Israel Defense Forces stated that "Skunk" is used only when demonstrators become violent or engage in vandalism and has specific rules of engagement for its use.[31]

Skunk was criticized in a joint 2016 Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) report on crowd control weapons published by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).[32]

Foreign sales

CRPF in India had tested skunk for possible usage in crowd control situations in India but the tests failed to meet the required standards. Testing the product on crowd consisting of police personnel and general public reportedly failed to convince the local police crowd control units on its effectiveness. The test subjects were found to have tolerated the smell. According to an official associated with the test, Indians possibly had higher threshold to tolerate the stench.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b 'Crowd Control Weapons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,' April 2014.
  2. ^ Yara Hawari,‘The Skunk’: Another Israeli weapon for collective punishment,' Al Jazeera 12 May 2021
  3. ^ Yolande Knell, Who, What, Why: What is skunk water? BBC News 12 September 2015 according to a B’tselem spokesman
  4. ^ Gideon Levy,Alex Levac 'Israeli Police Fired Skunk Water Cannon Into Palestinian Couple's Home. Weeks Later, It Still Reeks,' Haaretz 18 March 2021.
  5. ^ Crowley, M. (2016). Chemical Control: Regulation of Incapacitating Chemical Agent Weapons, Riot Control Agents and their Means of Delivery. Global Issues. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-1-137-46714-0. Retrieved 2021-11-15.
  6. ^ "התרגיל המסריח; המפגינים מנעלין צריכים לקנות דיאודורנט". September 4, 2008 – via Haaretz.
  7. ^ a b Noah Browning, 'Israeli "skunk" fouls West Bank protests,' Reuters 3 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Crowd Control".
  9. ^ A whiff from hell. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  10. ^ "Who, What, Why: What is skunk water?". BBC News. 2015-09-11. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  11. ^ a b Wyre Davies, 'New Israeli weapon kicks up stink,' BBC News 2 October 2008.
  12. ^ "Smelly bomb planned to douse protests doesn’t raise a stink", Hindustan Times 27 July 2017
  13. ^ a b Breiner, Josh. "Israeli police target ultra-Orthodox protesters with weapon developed against Palestinians, and it stinks".
  14. ^ Rahul Bedi, 'Israeli-made stink bomb not smelly enough to deter Indian protesters,' The Irish Times 27 July 2017
  15. ^ "Who, What, Why: What is skunk water?". September 11, 2015 – via
  16. ^ a b "Israel develops 'skunk bomb' for riot control situations", Haaretz, 18 September 2004.
  17. ^ Joel Greenberg,'Shooting Of Israeli Demonstrator Is Debated,' Chicago Tribune 29 December 2003.
  18. ^ Hambling, David (21 September 2008). "Israel Unleashes First 'Skunk Bomb'". Wired. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  19. ^ Edmund Sanders, tries new tactics against Palestinian protesters,'[dead link] Los Angeles Times 27 April 2010.
  20. ^ Michael T. McRay,Letters from "Apartheid Street": A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine, Wipf and Stock Publishers 2013 pp.56-59.
  21. ^ Elior Levy, 'Hebron funeral becomes target of 'skunk' weapon,' Ynet 28 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Protesters clash with police at Ashkelon demonstration over Palestinian hunger striker". 2015-08-16. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  23. ^ "This is what it looks like to be hit by Israel's 'Skunk'". +972 Magazine. November 27, 2017.
  24. ^ a b Alex Shams,'Israeli forces spray Bethlehem homes with putrid-smelling water,' Ma'an News Agency 27 June 2014.
  25. ^ Elior Levy,'Stink cannon against protesters also targeted homes. Watch,' Ynet 5/3 2013,
  26. ^ 'Concerns of Excessive Use of Skunk Spray in East Jerusalem,' ACRI August 10, 2014
  27. ^ Sarit Michaeli, 'Crowd Control: Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank,' B'tselem 2013 p.
  28. ^ 'Palestinian village oppressed by Israeli security forces,' Amnesty International 6 No9vember 2013,18 March 2014.
  29. ^ Gideon Levy, Alex Levac, 'Israeli Police Fired Skunk Water Cannon Into Palestinian Couple's Home. Weeks Later, It Still Reek,' Haaretz 18 March 2021
  30. ^ Hambling, David (4 June 2012). "US military malodorant missiles kick up a stink". New Scientist. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  31. ^ Monitor, N. G. O. (January 30, 2013). "IDF Response to B'Tselem on Crowd Control Weapons » ngomonitor". ngomonitor.
  32. ^ "Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons". American Civil Liberties Union.
  33. ^ "Smelly bomb planned to douse protests doesn't raise a stink". Hindustan Times. 27 July 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2019.

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