Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Middle-East War's Lethal Harvest At Time Of New Year

"The scourge of munitions from the cluster bombs now littering southern Lebanon, mostly American-made but some manufactured in Israel, will be a "lasting legacy," the United Nations has said. U.N. officials estimate that the Israeli military fired 90 percent of the bombs during the last 72 hours of the conflict, which began on July 12 after Hezbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid and ended with a cease-fire on Aug. 14. As many as 1 million of the bomblets are unexploded, they say, wounding or killing three people a day. The threat of stumbling across a bomblet has paralyzed life in parts of the south that depend on the harvest of tobacco and now-abandoned groves of bananas, olives and citrus....

International law does not prohibit the use of cluster bombs, which can spread dozens, sometimes hundreds, of smaller munitions, or bomblets, over an area the size of two football fields. But because of their wide dispersal, human rights groups have condemned their use in civilian areas, saying they violate international bans on indiscriminate attacks. The Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on their sale to Israel after a congressional investigation determined that Israel had misused the weapons during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The State Department said it is investigating whether Israel violated agreements with the United States on their use during the conflict this summer.

U.N. officials have said they are still grappling with a problem whose scope has grown by the day. About 100 de-miners on contract to the United Nations are trying to defuse munitions in which as many as two in five of the bomblets failed to detonate. They said many of the bomblets might have failed to explode because they struck soft ground, were snared in trees or other obstructions or were fired too low to the ground to detonate on impact.

Early on, officials estimated that cluster munitions littered 400 sites, anywhere from a house to an entire village. The number now stands at 590, and U.N. officials said they are dumbfounded by the intensity of the firing in the war's last days, when it was clear a cease-fire was approaching.

"It's impossible for me to work out what the logic was," said David Shearer, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon. "To me, it just seems outrageous that it would happen as it did." ...

Anthony Shadid "In Lebanon, a War's Lethal Harvest: Threat of Unexploded Bombs Paralyzes the South" Washington Post September 26, 2006


A de-miner investigates an unexploded American- or Israeli- made cluster-bomb -- one of up to a million now littering Lebanese agricultural land.

Photo credit: www.yalibnan.com. With thanks.


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