The method, known as the "naked spy machine", allegedly emits large doses of radiation which Palestinians say could cause cancer to those exposed to it. 

The Israeli army has been using the controversial machine, known in technical parlance as Safe View Millimeter Wave Radar, for more than six months now, drawing protests from Palestinian and human-rights groups.

The Israeli army suspended the use of the machine for one week earlier this month due to intense lobbying by these activists. But for the past one week, the device has been back in operation.

Harm to health

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has denounced the use of the device.

In a press statement, it said its use could cause serious harm to the health of those being screened, while also invading Palestinians' privacy by virture of the machine operators being able to see through civilian clothing to the naked body. 

Palestinians are subjected to a
range of security screening

The statement described the practice as "another insidious form of collective punishment" given that the Israelis indiscriminately target Palestinian commuters for screening.

Palestinian officials in Rafah condemned the re-introduction of the screening technique in the strongest terms, saying it underscored the "brutal ugliness" of the Israeli mentality.

"They are using our people as guinea pigs to test the efficacy of their machines," Umar Ali al-Naga, deputy-governor of Rafah, told Aljazeera.net. 

He blamed exposure to the machine for several reports of Palestinian commuters experiencing recurrent headaches, blurred vision, fatigue and nausea after being subjected to the screening procedure. 

More hazards

Asked what he thought the Israeli army wanted to achieve, al-Naga said "they only want to torment us".

"They are using our people as guinea pigs to test the efficacy of
their machines"

Umar Ali al-Naga
Deputy Governor of Rafah

The Israeli army did not return Aljazeera.net's telephone calls inquiring why the same screening machine was not being used at Israeli airports, harbours and other border crossings.

In an unrelated development, the Palestinian press on Monday accused Israel of dumping large amounts of solid and chemical wastes in the vicinity of the town of Yatta, 10km southwest of Hebron. 

The Ram Allah-based newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida said in a report that an unusually high level of cancer cases among the inhabitants of the town was attributable to the dumping of carcinogenic materials by local occupation authorities. 

A spokesman for the Israeli civil administration denied the charge, saying the dump did not pose any health hazards to the nearby Palestinian population centres. 

Israeli response

"This is part of Palestinian incitement against Israel," Dan Avidan, spokesperson for the civil administration, told the Arabic service of the Israeli state-run radio on Monday. 

Last month, the Israeli government and army allowed private Israeli companies to dispose of solid wastes from the greater Tel Aviv area in the northern West Bank. 

Palestinians and environmentalist groups said the dumping of tens of thousands of tonnes of solid and chemical wastes near Nablus would be a threat to underground water reserves in particular and public health and environment in general.