Israel to hand over cluster bomb maps - Israeli media (Israel)


UN demining source: report 'untrue'


(05.03.2009)

BEIRUT: The Israeli army will provide peacekeeping mission the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with a database identifying the locations of cluster munitions it fired over South Lebanon during the July 2006 war, an Israeli media report said on Wednesday. The Israeli military "has completed the creation of a database containing information on the exact point of impact of each cluster bomb fired Israel during the Second Lebanon War, and plans to transfer this information to UNIFIL," a report published by Haaretz newspaper claimed. UNIFIL said on Thursday they would not comment on the report, while sources at the UN Mine Action Coordination Center labeled it "untrue."

Israeli warplanes released around four million cluster bombs over South Lebanon at a time when the UN Security Council had already adopted Resolution 1701 calling for an immediate end to the 2006 hostilities. Half a million of those munitions did not explode and since the cease-fire came into effect, 213 civilians and 52 deminers have been killed or wounded by the munitions. Access to the database has long been a demand of the UN, the Lebanese state and deminers, who say it is critical to clearance efforts.

"The Lebanese army currently pinpoints strike locations based on accidents," said Khaled Yamout, Landmine action program coordinator at non-governmental organization Norweigan People's Aid. "If we had a database it would save Lebanon a lot of lives and money."

In his ninth and most recent report on the implementation of Resolution 1701, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "no progress" had been made in receiving the database from Israel. "My special coordinator was assured by the Israeli [military ... in meetings in Tel Aviv on February 9 that the technical work on the strike data had been completed and was awaiting political approval for its release to UNIFIL," Ban said.

Some 154,733 cluster munitions have been destroyed in South Lebanon since mine-clearance operations began in 2006, helped along by an "enhanced" UNIFIL presence after December 2008, Ban said. About 12 million square meters of land remain to be cleared, six million of which have had "no clearance" whatsoever.

"Due to lack of funding, only five of the seven clearance organizations operational in 2008 will continue in 2009," Ban said, warning the setback threatened "to disrupt the momentum of clearance operations that has to date resulted in a steady reduction" in civilian casualties.

Israel's use of cluster munitions in Lebanon was the most extensive since the 1991 Gulf war and spurred an international campaign to ban the controversial weapons. A treaty to that effect was signed in December 2008 by around 100 countries. Israel and its ally the United States refused to sign the treaty.

Von: 06.03.2009, By Dalila Mahdawi, Daily Star Lebanon, www.dailystar.com.lb

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