A woman has been killed and a soldier seriously injured after an unexploded cluster bomb detonated in Nabatiye Governorate in southern Lebanon, Press TV reports.
The incident occurred on Tuesday when a bomblet exploded in Bint Jbeil, the second largest town in the in southern Lebanon.
The injured soldier was rushed to the nearest hospital.
US reports say Israel dropped some 4.5 million cluster munitions in Lebanon during the last days of its military offensive on the country in 2006.
The move made Lebanon one of the worst affected countries by the internationally-banned arms, along with Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya.
Six years after the 2006 war, Lebanon has not yet finished clearing the cluster munitions and landmines in the south, with Israel refusing to provide UN authorities with maps of the locations of the munitions it dropped.
- Canada turns blind eye to cluster bomb treaty (alethonews.wordpress.com)
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- Two Serbian Soldiers Killed By Old NATO Cluster Bomb (rferl.org)
Conflicting reports dominated the story of the Lebanese pilgrims that were captured in Syria near the Turkish border. The event has transcended the captors and the abductees to become a foreign policy priority for many countries involved in the Middle Eastern crises.
The sequence of events surrounding the abduction of the Lebanese pilgrims last Tuesday in the vicinity of Aleppo, Syria goes as follows.
Lebanese Shia returning from a visit to religious sites in Iran were kidnapped by Syrian Sunnis fighting a regime that they view as allied to the hostages. The news reached Lebanon, which was seething with Syria-related tensions, from the “wars” in its north to the “conquests” of the Tariq al-Jdideh and Caracas neighborhoods of Beirut. Nothing could have been better designed to inflame passions and get the sectarian genie out of its bottle.
Shia in the southern suburbs of Beirut, South Lebanon and the Bekaa, took to and blocked streets, as Sunnis in the North, Beirut and the Bekaa had done the previous week. Some Syrian-owned shops in the suburbs were attacked, and some angry youths nabbed Syrian workers. Things could have developed further with tit-for-tat kidnappings or worse.
So the long-awaited Sunni-Shia fitna (strife) had finally arrived. The heat was turned up further by news from Iraq. The bombing of a busload of Lebanese Shia pilgrims killed three and injuring two.
This need not necessarily be what the kidnappers planned to begin with. But opportunities can be seized when they present themselves.
However, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah succeeded in averting an explosion. Shia supporters of Hezbollah and Amal heeded his call to come off the streets, as he promised to work on resolving the issue. Tempers cooled off a little, enabling a flurry of domestic and regional political contacts to be held.
Turkish intelligence then identified the location of the Lebanese pilgrims and their captors. The Turkish foreign ministry was informed that they “have the abductees.” Turkish chief diplomat Ahmet Davutoglu, eager for his country to regain the role of regional mediator, quickly made that public.
All of Lebanon – including its rival political camps – proceeded to voice its satisfaction, having earlier condemned the abduction. The country was swept by a wave of optimism and “love”. Al-Manar conveyed the greetings of the people of the southern suburbs to Sheikh Saad Hariri and their gratitude for his efforts, and Nasrallah did the same in his Bint Jbeil speech. Future Movement MPs strutted and swaggered on the resistance’s TV channel. Things looked like they were heading for a happier ending than the Lebanese could have hoped for.
Then something unexpected, and still unexplained, happened. The hostages were “lost” somewhere on the way between where they were being held in Syria and Adana airport in Turkey.
Informed sources offer two possible explanations for this.
The first is that the Turkish foreign ministry was over-hasty in announcing the release of the hostages. Davutoglu informed his Lebanese interlocutors that they “have the abducteees,” and that he expected them to be freed on Saturday night. But in intelligence parlance, “we have them” does not necessarily mean “they are in our custody,” especially given the profusion of armed Syrian opposition factions on the ground.
Davutoglu almost certainly spoke after the hostages had arrived at a point in Syria close to the Turkish border. There, something happened which held up the entire exercise, severely embarrassing the government in Ankara. Claims made about the hostages’ fate on various websites appeared implausible as Turkey had continued to reiterate the hostages’ well-being. Official Lebanese sources also told Al-Akhbar that “the hostages are all fine.”
The other explanation also relates to over-haste, but differently. After announcing the end of the affair, Ankara came under pressure from the US and Qatar. Why, they protested, should Nasrallah be given another victory and credibility boost? According to the sources, they saw it better to drag things out for a few days longer to make more use of the issue that could serve their interests on many levels.
First, it would help with eroding grassroots confidence in the Hezbollah leader. Nasrallah could also be blamed for any harm that may befall the hostages, after he included Bashar Assad in the list of people he thanked in his Bint Jbeil speech. One could refer in this regard to statements made yesterday by Syrian National Council (SNC) head Burhan Ghalioun and Syrian Liberal Party chief Ibrahim al-Zoabi.
Also, public anger would put an end to the recent easing of tensions in Lebanon, and keep the spotlight focused on the Shia masses – whose expressions of anger have hitherto been controlled – and away from the Salafi uprising in the north, the Tariq al-Jdideh incident, the accompanying emergence of armed manifestations, and all the talk of al-Qaeda sleeper cells and others in the process of waking up.
Following the same logic, a prolonged period of anxiety about the issue would cause a rift between the resistance’s mass base and both its leadership and the Syrians. When public anger and outrage boil over, Syrians cease to be “our dear brothers and guests living among us.” It is within this charged atmosphere that local officials in some areas with Shia majorities have been advising Syrian residents to take precautions for their safety.
Finally, the “national unity” displayed by Lebanese political rivals over the affair and their contacts with each other seemed to be establishing a basis which could be built on, amid renewed calls for national dialogue. That would relieve – and possibly refloat – Lebanon’s current government, with its policy of dissociation from developments in Syria, and lead to a general easing of tensions over developments there. That would not be to the advantage of the international campaign against the Syrian regime, in which Lebanon now has a pivotal role.
The facts remain unclear, and contacts are continuing to be held. Pending further developments, the Shia political leadership in Lebanon is acting with caution. Every effort is being made on the ground to contain the possible fallout, depending on how the affair concludes – especially if a decision has been taken somewhere to make things worse.
- Nasrallah calls for restraint after Syria kidnapping (alethonews.wordpress.com)