I was filled with a sense of shock and disgust watching the invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli army. While the Hezbollah kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers was of course appalling and to be condemned, the heavy handed reaction by Israel was totally out of proportion, with the official death toll of Lebanese civilians killed by Israel climbed to over 1200 civilians with over 3700 declared wounded. Of course the official toll is usually very conservative so you could probably double these figures for a more realistic figure. The Israeli’s have not only done the wrong thing by Lebanon, but in doing so, have destroyed both their reputation and any sense of sympathy for their situation from the outside world.
While the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in heavily built up urban areas was bad enough, evidence has now come out that Israel used US made cluster bombs in these areas. Cluster bombs deliver sub munitions, or smaller bombs which are often no bigger than a torch battery. Many of the bomblets fail to detonate immediately on impact.
Israel and other countries which have used the weapons, notably the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, have often faced criticism because the weapons can kill indiscriminately as they are often scattered over a large area and can pose a deadly threat to civilians, especially children, for months and even years after a conflict.
Chris Clark, head of the UN Mine Action Service in southern Lebanon, said that there had been a total of 59 confirmed casualties, including 13 deaths, caused by the explosives since the end of hostilities on August 14.
UN teams have so far located 390 separate Israeli strike sites in Lebanon where the munitions were used, Clark told a meeting of diplomats and weapons experts in Geneva. About 2,000 of the potentially deadly bomblets, which litter the areas, have been destroyed, he added.
Steve Goose, director of the arms control division of Human Rights Watch, said that Israel appeared to have stepped up use of cluster bombs in the final days of its offensive, leaving clearance teams with an uphill task. “The situation is much more severe than what we encountered in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo,” Goose said. “As civilians return, they are encountering many of these duds,” he added. “It’s going to get much worse. It’s going to be a much bleaker picture.”
The Israeli military is believed to have fired around 2,000-3,000 rounds of heavier ammunition a day, not only cluster bombs but also artillery shells and more conventional bombs in the early stages of its campaign to dislodge the Muslim Hezbollah fighters. The figure rose to 5,000 – 6,000 rounds in the final days of the fighting. Clark said an estimated 10 percent of all munitions failed to explode.
Apart from the massive task of rebuilding this broken country, the population will have to deal with these unexploded bombs for many months & years to come, which incidentally are the same size and colour as food parcels dropped to the starving population during the Israeli invasion.