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Al Sultaneih, Lebanon.
As the initial assessment and clean up of American cluster bombs, estimated at more than 130,000 unexploded bomblets across the south of Lebanon, gets underway, unanticipated findings are emerging:
The breadth and depth of the problem with cluster bombs found in 498 locations in scores of villages as of September 9th was not expected. So far less than 4% have been disposed of, and 0 % of the villages in the south have been certified as safe for domestic or agricultural use by the United Nations ordnance disposal task force.
Even operators of heavy rubble clearing equipment are finding their work is stymied because Israel dropped cluster bombs both before and after many buildings were destroyed by bombs, and therefore cluster bombs are sandwiched between layers of pancaked walls and piles of rubble.
While the M-26 Cluster Bomb Unit may have looked "promising" at military demo shows when observed in ideal conditions of level, obstruction-free open areas, using "polished bomblet" conditions, the reality is very different in villages which are seeing not the military touted "dud rates" in the 1% to 4% range, but rather "dud rates" in the 40-60% range. No weapons with this performance statistic would be taken seriously at arms sale outlets.
The U.S. cluster munitions dropped across Lebanon have been a near total failure as far as their claimed purpose and justification, degrading Hezbollah forces. Lebanese Army, UN, and Hezbollah sources agree the Cluster Bombs had virtually no impact on Palestinian, Amal, and Hezbollah fighters during the recent conflict.
One Hezbollah commander told this observer: "Maybe 3 or 4 [were killed] — perhaps a few more I didn’t hear about — due to accidents by our forcesbut unlike the civilian population, we have a long history of confronting the Zionist aggressors and we often know what they will do before they do. True, they have your country’s latest weapons, but one-on-one they are not impressive at all. Much more cowardly and incompetent than their propaganda claimsplus they are very weak psychologically — they know they stole Palestine, and they realize that sooner or later they will have to make peace, or they will destroy themselves and disappear from the region."
Another commander added, "My brothers can’t wait for their [Israeli] troops to enter Lebanon again on the ground. We are eager to hit them harder next time. The Zionists’ training has been used to using tanks against stone-throwing children and harassing pregnant women at check points. We now have the weapons to quickly destroy their tanks. That is why they couldn’t enter and finally accepted a ceasefire. We don’t respect them either as men or soldiers".
Yet another offered: "When we fire a rocket or series of rockets at their weapon stockpiles or artillery positions in northern Palestine, our brothers know that they have approximately 6-7 minutes to disappear — usually underground. The Zionists place their weapons next to Arab neighborhoods, where they have not provided shelters for the non-Jews. We are accused of targeting civilians. This is not truewe know where their weapons are exactly. They hide behind the civilians in northern Palestine like they do in Gaza. Using the people as shields."
Other recent findings confirm that Israel may have dropped as many as 60 % of the cluster bombs they used during July-August 2006 in the 72 hours immediately before the ceasefire. Military analysts on the ground offer two explanations:
1. Shear frustration, hatred, and rage by Israel’s leadership and its obsession with punishing Lebanon for its more than 85% support (including Lebanon’s middle class and Christian citizens) for Hezbollah’s resistance to Israel’s attempted reoccupation up to the Litani River.
2. A desire by Israel to get rid of as much of its U.S. cluster bomb inventory as possible, which the Pentagon has stipulated must be reduced to a lower level before Israel can reorder newer models like the M-26. This is why the 33 year old CBU-58, almost extinct, was used so widely. Israel was cleaning out its CBU closet for new orders, one Lebanese army source reported.
Senator Ted Stevens and those in the Senate who opposed banning cluster bombs on Sept. 9 might want to reflect on what actual utility the US cluster bombs used by Israel in Lebanon actually achieved.
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According to Israeli soldiers, reported in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Sept. 13, the Israeli military launched over 1.2 million cluster bombs into Lebanon, and used phosphorous shells as well — "the overwhelming majority used in the last ten days of the war." The use of phosphorous, which causes excruciating burns, is prohibited under international law.
An Israeli rocket unit commander stated that because the Israeli rockets are so imprecise, his unit was ordered to "flood" the area with them. The soldiers said that during IDF training exercises live rockets are almost never fired, to prevent leaving duds behind that would "fill the IDF’s firing grounds with mines." Yet, the soldiers said, Israeli forces in Lebanon fired the rockets at ranges of less than 15 kilometers, "even though the manufacturer’s guidelines state that firing at this range considerably increases the number of duds."
The rocket commander, who said he had complained to Israel’s Defense Minister but has received no response, stated: "In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs. What we did there was crazy and monstrous."
Dr. FRANKLIN LAMB, an international lawyer and author of "Israel’s War in Lebanon: Eyewitness Chronicles of the Invasion and Occupation," is a research associate at If Americans Knew. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org