Unexploded Munitions

As a follow up to my previous post regarding cluster bombs, as I feared, Lebanese civilians returning to thier homes are in danger from the estimated 7-8,000 unexploded artillery shells, cluster bombs and other ordinance. Around 15-25% of all cluster bombs dropped are duds, that is, they don’t explode until they are disturbed, at best they make entire areas of land completely unsafe for any kind of activity.

A summary of the unexploded ordinance (UXO) problem, taken from Reuters..

-The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dropped a daily average of 200-300 bombs on areas adjacent to the border, and at least a similar amount on the remainder of southern Lebanon. Coupled with the extensive bombing of areas of southern Beirut and the Bekka Valley, this warfare has left an extensive threat from unexploded high-explosive bombs, including 500 lb., 1,000 lb., and 2,000 lb. weapons;

-The IDF fired a daily average of 200-300 aerial-delivered missiles on areas adjacent to the border, and at least a similar amount on the remainder of southern Lebanon;

-The IDF fired approximately 2,000 artillery rounds per day on areas adjacent to the border, and at least a similar amount on the remainder of southern Lebanon;

-Hezbollah used weapons such as mortars which have a notoriously high dud rate;

-The IDF and Hezbollah engaged in substantial ground combat operations, mainly centered on the villages of Marwahin, Bint Jbeil/Marun al-Ras, Khaim and Kafa Kila/Al Taibe. Both sides extensively used conventional small arms and light missile systems. The IDF targeting of Hezbollah weapons and munitions caches, while destroying many arms, also scattered some munitions in the immediate vicinity.

People are now streaming back in thier thousands. The unexploded sub-munitions are in some cases tiny and U.N. bomb disposal teams can’t clear the roads fast enough. Cars ‘swerve to avoid the caution tapes, sometimes by just inches.’

Andrew Gleeson of the UK-based Mines Action Group (MAG) said this ordnance would be highly unstable and could detonate easily if moved.

Mr Gleeson, a former British army bomb disposal expert, said: “The explosive material will deteriorate over time. Heat and rain will make the material less stable.”

Children are especially vulnerable because they don’t know how to identify this kind of threat. A young girl died after stepping on a cluster bomb sub-munition, one of the hundreds of small explosives within the M26 MLRS. Eight civilians suffered injuries from unexploded cluster bombs in one region alone.

Personally I feel that the Isreali military should be responsible for clearing away the mess left by their offensive, which as far as I can gather, did little except destroy civilian lives and Lebanon’s infrastructure. Hezbollah remains undefeated, and is now more popular with the public than it ever has been. Bush can call Hezbollah the losers as much as he likes but it doesn’t change the fact that the Isreali objective was to destroy Hezbollah, and they didn’t do it. It underlines the actual reason for the conflict, that the Isreali’s seek control over the whole region in order to secure the homeland, and systematically destroying the infrastructure of the surrounding countrys renders them unable to compete militarily and economically. In the same way that the U.S. did not attack Iraq and take out Hussein in the first gulf war in order to build bases and control the region, Israel needs Hezbollah, and will continue to provoke conflict, in order to expand military operations and maintain control of the area.

Overall it was a tragic waste of life and property and has drawn serious condemnation of the Isreali governement from most of the world, quite rightly so. Families have been torn apart, hundreds are dead, and now coming home, people have to face the fear of these unexploded munitions. Haven’t these people suffered enough?

Some families have come to these bombs strewn across thier property and await bomb-disposal experts to remove them.

This excerpt from the German Press Agency (dPa):

A returning resident guided journalists to the ten or so cluster bombs scattered across his garden alone. ‘I told my children they cannot play outside now, but i am afraid for their safety,’ Ali Mokdad told dpa. ‘I have informed the army and they will come on Wednesday to clean them up,’ he said. ‘These weapons are forbidden internationally.’

Ali’s wife, Hasnaa, was happy to find their house intact when they returned, and clearly would have preferred to ignore the threat of the cluster bombs that were surrounding her house. She tried not to listen while her husband was speaking about the dangers of such bombs on their children. ‘Thank God this war has ended and I returned to my home,’ she said.

But suddenly Hasnaa’s smile was wiped off her face as she heard the sound of a nearby explosion and saw her neighbours running to where a cluster bomb had exploded.

This time, the victim was a cat.

I assume that if a cat can explode one of these bombs, then a child will certainly set one off if they go near it. I expect to hear about many more of these casualties in the near future.

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