Along with landmines, cluster bombs are one of the most insidious weapons of war. Israel, however, are big fans, and have used them in virtually every major conflict since the Zionist regime was founded in the late 1940s.
At the moment, the US and Israel are two of the few remaining countries in the world who have not agreed to phase out the use of cluster bombs and land mines. It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that Israel sources most of its foul and horrificly lethal cluster bombs from the US. Those that it does not manufacture itself.
Cluster bombs are dual-use weapons, in that they are designed to also maim and kill civilians, not just during the conflict in which they are deployed, but in the weeks and months that follow, when civilians return to bomb-devastated areas and begin rebuilding.
What makes cluster bombs so particularly vile is that some of the small explosives that are thrown clear of the main shell are 'camoflaged' to look like anything from a pencil to aid food packages to tin cans to childrens' toys, even rocks and pieces of wood.
For those now picking through the ruins of their homes in Lebanon, and the international workers who are helping to rebuild, alongside the Hizbullah, the threat of the 'bomblets' now strewn across vast stretches of Southern Lebanon are an ongoing and potentially deadly risk.
It is almost impossible to believe that Israel's Army and Airforce, in the last three or four days before the ceasefire came into effect, actually deployed thousands of cluster 'bomblets' across the smashed towns and villages over the border, knowing full well that civilians and work teams would soon be returning to those areas.
But this is exactly what the UN, various human rights groups and key Israeli anti-war activists are now claiming.
Israel knew the end of missile and rocket exchanges was coming soon, and a decision was made in the top ranks of the military to fire off American-made cluster bombs when most of the enemy was already out of reach.
It is hard not to then draw the conclusion that the aim was to make the villages and suburbs of Southern Lebanon as dangerous and as uninhabitable as possible, not only for the forces of Hizbullah, but for the civilians as well.
Little wonder, then, that Israel is on the receiving end of a great deal of criticism and outrage, not only from the UN and Arab states, but the French, German parlimentary members and human rights groups, as well as the International Red Cross.
From the UK Independent :
The Financial Times has a story here where the UN calls Israel's strategic use of cluster bombs "immoral". Israel, as usual, responds that it does not target civilians. After the deaths of more than 800 civilians in Lebanon, more than half of whom were under the age of 14, it is an excuse that becomes increasingly hard to believe.
Pressure for an international ban on cluster bombs has intensified as Israel stands accused of littering southern Lebanon with thousands of unexploded bombs in the final hours of its war against Hizbollah.
Campaigners yesterday accused the Israel Defence Force of leaving a "minefield" of deadly bomblets in villages and fields after firing hundreds of cluster shells, rockets and bombs across its northern border in the three days before hostilities ended earlier this month.Mine-clearance specialists said densely populated southern Lebanon was blighted by thousands of unexploded bomblets, which can kill or maim if they are moved or touched. In one case this week 35 bomblets were cleared from in and around one house, while in another a woman lost her hands when a bomblet apparently became tangled in her tobacco crop.
Yesterday the United Nations official in charge of bomb disposal in southern Lebanon said his staff had identified 390 strikes by cluster munitions, and had disposed of more than 2,000 bomblets since the ceasefire.
Chris Clarke, head of the UN mine action service in southern Lebanon, said: "This is without a doubt the worst post-conflict cluster bomb contamination I have ever seen."
In a presentation at the international conference on conventional weapons in Geneva yesterday, he said that the "vast majority" of cluster bombs had been fired by the Israeli Defence Force in the final three days of the conflict, prompting campaigners to accuse the Israeli government of targeting civilian populations.
Mr Clarke, who has worked in bomb clearance in Sudan, Kosovo, Kuwait and Bosnia, said the number of confirmed strikes was "climbing every day". He said: "They are everywhere in south Lebanon. We are still looking. Pretty much the whole of south Lebanon is carpeted with these things."UN mine clearance experts have identified 390 strikes by Israeli cluster bombs in its recent war in Lebanon. Munitions include American-made M42 and M47 shells which each contain about 80 bomblets. UN staff have also found the remains of Israeli-manufactured M85 weapons, which are fired by rocket and contain 644 bomblets. They say that American-made cluster bombs dropped from aircraft have also been used.
Experts in Lebanon say that up to half of the bomblets dropped during the recent conflict remain unexploded.
From the Financial Times :
12 Lebanese Civilians Killed By Cluster Bombs In Past Two Weeks
The United Nations on Wednesday described as “shocking and immoral” the fact that Israel dropped well over 90 per cent of its cluster munitions in Lebanon during the last three days of the conflict – when it was already clear there would be a cessation of hostilities.
Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian chief, made his comments just hours after Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, left Israel after talks with Ehud Olmert, prime minister, and other government members. The UN said Mr Annan had asked Israel to provide a map of where cluster weapons were used but did not raise Mr Egeland’s concerns because he was unaware of the details during his Jerusalem visit.
Israel intensified its military offensive in southern Lebanon in the 72 hours between Security Resolution 1701 being signed in New York and the ceasefire on August 14.
Cluster weapons contain dozens of small explosives which spread over a wide area and are either air-dropped or ground launched.
The UN said it had identified 359 cluster bomb-strike locations, and that 102,000 unexploded small bombs continued to maim and kill people every day.
“Civilians will die disproportionately again, after the war,” he said. “This should not have happened. It’s an outrage.”
He added that countries which had supplied Israel with the munitions, including the US, should take the matter up with the Israeli government.
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