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Lebanon: unexploded Israeli cluster bombs deadly risk; UN asks Israel for more data

Lebanon: unexploded Israeli cluster bombs deadly risk; UN asks Israel for more data

The United Nations today called on Israel to hand over more-detailed information about the cluster bombs it fired into Lebanon during the war with Hizbollah, saying at least 350,000 of the unexploded bomblets still pose a deadly risk – and could take more than two years to clear.

“Every bomb is a challenge, you don’t know why it didn’t explode ... the slightest movement can trigger it,” said Tony Wyles, part of a UN team, as he carefully picked up and disarmed the bomblet – a greyish metal cylinder about half the size of a can of soda that lay at the foot of a fig tree.

UN humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon David Shearer said Israel could greatly accelerate the overall clearance effort by handing over the coordinates of where it fired the bombs, but has not done so. Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said she was unaware of any official UN complaint or further request over cluster bomb mapping.

Dalya Farran, spokeswoman for the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre in the southern city of Tyre, said Israel had handed over some maps of cluster bomb strikes in Lebanon. “But they're useless, they don’t have any coordinates or legend,” she said by telephone from Tyre.

Israel has stressed that all the weapons it uses are legal under international law. During the 34-day war, Israel used the bombs to attack Hizbollah fighters, who often use village streets and civilian neighbourhoods in southern Lebanon to launch rockets at Israel.

Meanwhile, a UN food expert has expressed great concern that the long-term effects on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people will be severe and said the large number of unexploded ordnance in agricultural fields prevents farmers from irrigating, harvesting and planting.

Special Rapporteur on the right to food Jean Ziegler said in a statement issued in Geneva yesterday that he was informed of the extensive direct and indirect damage caused by Israeli bombardment to agriculture and fishing, affecting the livelihood of income of hundreds of thousands of rural inhabitants and thousands of fishermen.

“In addition, the Rapporteur received consistent information on the serious impact the conflict has had on access to safe drinking water as well as on the irrigation system,” the statement said. “This has exacerbated the precariousness of the access that rural people have to sources of income.”

Mr. Ziegler will report on his findings and formulate recommendations during the second session of the UN Human Rights Council that is currently underway in Geneva. Special Rapporteurs are unpaid and serve in an independent personal capacity.