Israel leaves behind 100,000 unexploded bombs

UNITED NATIONS (31 August 2006) - CLUSTER bombs dropped by Israel on southern Lebanon in the conflict with Hezbollah are still threatening civilians, a top UN official said yesterday, calling Israel "completely immoral" for using the weapons in residential areas.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said some of the bombs fired by Israeli forces in the last days of the war were made in the United States and urged Washington to talk to the Jewish state to stem the flow of the deadly arms.

"I hope the US will talk to the Israelis on that," Egeland told a news conference. "It's an outrage that we have 100,000 unexploded bombs among where children, women, civilians, shop keepers and farmers are now going to tread."

Egeland criticized Israel for firing nearly all of the cluster bombs during the last three days of its month-long war with Lebanon's Hezbollah.

"What's shocking and completely immoral is that 90 per cent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution and an end of this," Egeland said.

He said the UN Mine Action Coordination Center had assessed "nearly 85 per cent of bombed areas in south Lebanon" and identified "359 separate cluster bomb strike locations that are contaminated with as many 100,000 unexploded bomblets."

Cluster bombs burst into bomblets and spread out near the ground. While some aim to destroy tanks, others are designed to kill or maim humans over a wide area.

Those that fail to explode might resemble a soda can while others look like dusty rocks. Each bomblet packs enough force to rip off a leg or kill a child, and international law bans the use of such weapons in civilian areas.

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