By Richard Norton-Taylor
(18 August 2006) - UN explosives experts have identified 10 places where Israeli guns have fired cluster bombs on southern Lebanon and fear there could be many more of the devices, a human rights group said yesterday.
As Human Rights Watch warned that the sites could be the "tip of the iceberg", UN officials reported yesterday that two children were killed by a cluster bomb explosion in the town of Naqoura.
Two of the sites identified by the UN were in the village of Kfar Roummane. UN officials were quoted as saying that dangerous unexploded submunitions - duds that failed to detonate on impact but were still live and at risk of exploding - were present in Nabatiyeh, Tibnine and Beit Yahoun, as well as areas adjacent to the road connecting the latter two places.
Cluster bombs are notorious for leaving many unexploded bomblets, and human rights groups have repeatedly insisted the weapons should be banned. The bomblets are often encased in packaging attractive to inquisitive children and they kill or maim if touched.
Israel manufactures its own cluster bombs fired by artillery; some were sold to the British army before the invasion of Iraq. The US has also supplied Israel with the weapons.
The UN Mine Action Coordination Centre, in southern Lebanon, warned this week that cluster bomb duds were "extremely dangerous" and they could detonate "if touched or moved". It said: "They are small - about the size of a D-cell battery - and easily obscured by rubble and debris. The presence or sighting of one is an absolute confirmation that there are many others in the immediate vicinity."
Human Rights Watch quoted an Israel defence force spokesperson as saying: "We use all munitions within the confines of international humanitarian law and cannot give more details that would jeopardise our operations."
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