October 10, 2006

Remember Lebanon?

You know, the place where Israel fought its most recent war? The one that ended back in August?

Well, the war isn't over for the people who live in south Lebanon, says journalist Chris Allbritton. Residents continue to deal with Israel's cross-border incursions, damaged or destroyed houses, lost livelihoods, and — worst of all — huge amounts of unexploded ammunition left behind by Israel's military.

The United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center in Southern Lebanon estimates there may be up to 1 million unexploded cluster bomblets in the area, many American made.

Lebanese workers repair damage at a school in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon

Lebanese workers remove a broken table in a damaged classroom at a school in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon.
The school was destroyed during the Israel-Lebanon war earlier this year. [Photo: Mohammed Zaatari/AP]

Ali Herz, 26, is a typical, if lucky, victim of the weapon.

He went to check his neighbor's house in the southern town of Majd es-Slim two days after the cease-fire. But as he pushed open the heavy black iron gate to enter the garden, a sharp explosion threw him backward and shrapnel peppered his legs, face and chest.

"I thought that my legs might have been cut off, and I felt something had been knocked out of my mouth," he said recently, recuperating in his parents' home. He suffered a wound to his head, and he couldn't open his eyes, "because of the blood." Herz now walks with a permanent limp and can't work as a mechanic

As of earlier this month, the Mine Action Coordination Center said cluster bombs had killed 21 and wounded another 102.

"I've never seen so much like this," said Magnus Bengtsson, the supervisor on an emergency ordnance disposal team clearing cluster bomblets from a neighborhood in the small town of Hanaouay, five and half a miles southeast of Tyre and eight miles from the Israeli border. "It's more than I expected."

Bengtsson and his team are with the Swedish Rescue Services Agency. The group was contracted by the U.N. contracted for mine clearing but now helps with the immediate dangers.

As he walked through an empty field the size of a soccer pitch, Bengtsson pointed to a small, D-battery-sized object on the ground. It's an American-made m77, he said, which is designed to take out both people and armored vehicles, including tanks. The shaped charge can penetrate up to 5 inches of armor, and the casing is scored so it sends out deadly shrapnel to a radius of about 20 feet.

A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces said, "All the weapons and munitions used by the IDF are legal under international law, and their use conforms with international standards."

The cluster bomblets are preventing up to 200,000 people from returning to their homes, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, although it is unclear how many of those people still have homes. The Higher Relief Council estimates 30,000 homes were destroyed in the war, and travels through many of the villages south of the Litani River show the damage has been extensive, although mainly confined to Muslim -- and especially Shi'a -- villages.

This magpie commends the Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark, New Jersey for continuing to look at Lebanon long after most of the US media has forgotten about the story. And I highly recommend that you read Allbritton's full story.

Posted by Magpie at October 10, 2006 06:45 PM | Mideast | Technorati links |