SOUTH LEBANON: Nearly a year and a half after the 2006 war with Israel came to an end, efforts to clear South Lebanon of unexploded ordnance are still being hampered by Israel's refusal to provide key information to the United Nations, the UN Mine Action Coordination Center's (UNMACC) media and clearance officer Dalia Farran told The Daily Star on Tuesday.
"Israel is still refusing to inform the UN of the geographic spots it littered with cluster bombs, and of the quantity and type of such ordnance," she said.
The UN still does not even know the number of weapons Israel dropped north and south the Litani River, Farran added.
"There are millions or hundreds of thousands ... we do not know, despite our repetitive calls on Israel to hand over maps of the planted mines and cluster bombs. All we know is that we could get rid of 141,000 cluster bombs. Some of them have exploded due to high temperatures, heavy rainfalls and floods," Farran said, adding that new locations of cluster bombs were still being discovered.
"We located a new area filled with bomblets a few days ago, increasing the number of bomb-stricken locations to 965, i.e. a surface of 39 millions square meters," she said. "We have succeeded in clearing 41 percent of that surface."
The weapons have already killed 289 people, Farran said, adding that they "have claimed the lives of 27 civilians and 47 soldiers from the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL."
Asked about the cost of clearing operations, she said: "Some $60 million have been offered to us by the international community. The UAE is the first contributor in the mine-clearing operations, while Holland is the main contributor in the operations of cluster bombs clearance."
© 2008 The Daily Star (Lebanon)