Bylining AP, Ha’aretz reported last week ‘that the Israel Defense Forces has handed over data on cluster bombs fired during the 2006 war’, confirming their moral purity. After all, legend has it that the US still hasn’t provided maps of their landmines in Vietnam more than three decades down the track.
Cluster bomblets gathered to be destroyed by de-miners in Tyre, southern Lebanon. Israel fired over four million bomblets during last year's war, according to the UN [IRIN caption]
And in case you were entertaining any lingering doubts, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported in December 2007 that no less an authority than
Israel's military advocate-general, Brig-Gen Avihai Mendelblit, has said the military's use of cluster munitions during the conflict in Lebanon in 2006 was in accordance with international humanitarian law. Human rights groups and the UN had previously condemned the use of the bombs.
The " majority of the cluster munitions were fired at open and uninhabited areas", but in some cases the military hit residential areas, responding to rocket attacks by Hezbollah. In Maroon a-Ras, the bombs were used to "allow the evacuation" of Israeli soldiers.
In August 2006, Jan Egeland, then the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, had harshly condemned Israel's use of cluster bombs, calling it "shocking and completely immoral."
"Ninety percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said, adding that populated areas, such as homes and agricultural land were now covered with unexploded bomblets.
Last Thursday, IRIN reported
Coming nearly three years after the war ended, despite repeated requests by the UN, Lebanon and other governments, the move was met with little cheer by the Lebanese authorities.
Since the end of hostilities in 2006, 40 Lebanese have been killed by unexploded ordnance and a further 300 injured, many left permanently disabled.
Marwa, an 11-year-old from Aita Shaab in southern Lebanon, receiving treatment last year for injuries stemming from a cluster bomblet that exploded while she was playing with it [IRIN caption]
Diplomatically neglecting to mention the three years between the requests and the delivery of the maps, the Ha’aretz article reports, ‘The move follows UN and Lebanese calls for information that could help eliminate the threat...’
Unfortunately, it takes more than maps to demine Southern Lebanon.
Deminers in south Lebanon clearing hundreds of thousands of unexploded Israeli-dropped cluster bomb sub-munitions will lose two thirds of their teams this year unless a drastic funding shortfall is addressed.
...with 20 demining teams working in Lebanon clearing 800 square metres per working day, clearing the remaining 12 million square metres of affected land will take over eight years to finish...
Having started the year with 26 demining teams, plus five from UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, the number of teams will fall to just nine plus UNIFIL by the end of the year, according to figures from the Lebanon Mine Action Centre (LMAC), which has recently been absorbed into the Lebanese Army's demining division.
As always, it goes without saying that it’s The International Community that is left to pick up the tab for cleaning Israel’s mess.
So it’s beginning to look like it will be more than another eight years before it’s safe for kids to play and farmers to cultivate their land, assuming, that is, that Israel doesn’t drop any more over that period. We know that the US made an emergency shipment to Israel as the war on Lebanon had depleted their existing supply.
In February 2007, Dianne Feinstein introduced her Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act, which banned sales of cluster munitions with a failure rate exceeding 1%. But never mind, at least it’s not the reported 40% of the older models. This past February, Ms Feinstein reintroduced her bill, which now languishes in committee. So there’s no major impediment to Israel importing more vintage bombs, and even if it ever passes, with up to 2000 ‘submunitions’ in each cluster bomb, we’d still end up with 20 little landmines scattered around each bomb site.