Israel carried out tests in the Negev desert in 2014 to assess the damage caused by the explosion of a “dirty” radiological bomb, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
The tests were part of a weapons development programme dubbed “Green field” at the Dimona nuclear reactor, 36 kilometres from the town of Beersheba.
A dirty bomb combines radiological material with other more standard explosives. Most test explosions were carried out in the desert, while a few were done within an enclosed area.
Israel has always opted to avoid mentioning its weapons programme. Reports that Israel has succeeded in building an entire underground nuclear arsenal - estimated to be made up of 80 warheads - have been met with relative silence from the international community and Israeli military officials.
The tests involved 20 detonations, comprising of 250 grams to 25 kilograms of explosives mixed with a radioactive material called 99mTc, which is used for medical imaging. Sensors were used to measure the impact of each blast, and tiny drones were used to measure radiation.
Israeli authorities said they tested the bombs in case they were used by enemy forces. Israel has not been exposed to a radioactive attack before, but the government has taken all precautions.
About 200,000 Palestinian Bedouins live in the Negev desert near the Dimona reactor. Some 90,000 of them live in 46 villages, of which 35 are not recognised by Israel and thus do not receive any basic services such as water or electricity.
The locals in the villages have expressed fears that they might be forcibly displaced to make room for further weapons experimentations. It is not clear whether Israel’s weapons research and development in the Negev desert harmed to locals or not.
They has long been speculation as to whether Israel may replace the Palestinian villages with Jewish settlements or evacuate the villages to build military training areas.