A large explosion rocked the southern Lebanese town of Tair Harfa on Monday, five kilometers from the Israeli border, killing several farm animals, resident said. There were no human casualties.
A Lebanese security source said the blast was caused by an Israeli rocket fired into Lebanon during the 2006 war, that had not detonated.
A Reuters reporter said that members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Army and around 50 members of a UN peacekeeping force were at the site of the Monday blast, but that he was prevented from approaching the area.
But Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said its soldiers in the area were still trying to determine the cause of the explosion.
Israel had dropped approximately four million cluster bombs on Southern Lebanon during the war on a country of less than four million residents. More than one million bombs were left unexploded, according to a 2007 Human Rights Watch report.
When cluster munitions are fired, over 100 sub-munitions are ejected from a single shell, but one-in-four do not explode immediately.
Israel fired the majority of the cluster munitions in the last two days of their war on Lebanon in anticipation of a ceasefire. Over six years later, unexploded bombs continue to kill civilians.
Children constitute a large percentage of the casualties as they often mistake the unexploded bombs for toys.
Most recently a sub-munition exploded and killed a Lebanese security official in early October as he was demining land near his village of Deir Sirian in Southern Lebanon.
According to a Human Rights Watch Report, continued demining efforts are hampered by the refusal of Israel’s army to provide data on the number of strikes, the type of weapons used, and their targets, despite repeated UN appeals to Israel.
So far, 111 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs. Countries that have not signed on include Israel, the United States, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Brazil.
The treaty is presently ratified by 77 countries, making it officially illegal in those states.
However, because cluster munitions do not allow for specific targets, and because the small bomblets continue to kill civilians long after the bombs are dropped, the use of cluster bombs violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, that prohibits indiscriminate attacks that threaten civilians and non-military targets.
This treaty is ratified by 194 countries including Israel, making it internationally binding for all.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters )
Banning cluster bombs but then allowing Canadian pilots to drop them, Canadian soldiers to transport them and Canadian commanding officers to order them into the battlefield makes no sense, says the man who negotiated Canada’s participation in the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Former arms treaty negotiator Earl Turcotte, who led Canada’s effort to negotiate the Convention on Cluster Munitions, is warning Canada has misrepresented its signature on the 2010 treaty by proposing enabling legislation with very wide exceptions.
“It certainly, I think, misrepresents the position that we and other like-minded countries took during the negotiations,” Turcotte told The Catholic Register. “I expect Canada is going to get raked over the coals, and deservedly so at this point.”
Canada signed the international treaty in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 3, 2008 — one of the first nations to do so. It took until April 26 for the government to table legislation that would ratify that signature. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs media relations staff it took more than three years because “Canadian officials needed to finalize the necessary documentation for cabinet’s decision.”
For the sake of interoperability with American forces, the enabling legislation allows Canadian commanders on joint operations with U.S. forces to order American soldiers to use cluster bombs, allows Canadian pilots on secondment with American forces to drop cluster bombs, allows Canadian forces to transport the weapons into the field of battle. While most of the 111 countries that have ratified the treaty have banned investment in companies that produce cluster bombs, Canada has not. The enabling legislation also does not ban transport of cluster munitions through Canadian airspace or territory.
When Turcotte learned the contents of the bill he quit his job with foreign affairs to dedicate his time to persuading Parliament to seriously revise Bill S-10. Turcotte and the NGO Mines Action Canada have launched a petition asking Parliament to “make it clear that no Canadian should ever be involved in the use of cluster munitions for any reason, anywhere, at any time, for anyone.”
Banning cluster bombs, which have killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of civilians and very few soldiers, has been a cause close to the Vatican’s heart. The Holy See was part of a core group of countries that steered the Oslo process which produced the treaty — a role Canada had assumed a decade earlier with the anti-personnel land mines treaty.
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken several times about the immorality of cluster bombs. When the Convention entered into force in 2010, Benedict exhorted all states to comply with the treaty.
“The international community has demonstrated wisdom, foresight and the capacity to pursue a meaningful result in the field of disarmament and international human rights,” he said Aug. 1, 2010. “The logic of peace is stronger than the logic of war, which in every case must have as an insurmountable limit the protection and preservation of the civil population and particularly the most vulnerable people.”
“The moral issue is that if you’ve got a ban, a complete ban, and you’ve signed a treaty that says you support the concept of a complete ban, then how can you morally justify coming back and say ‘Yes, we ban this, but…’ ” said Mines Action Canada executive director Paul Hannon. “You can’t have it both ways. It’s morally ambiguous. You want to ban something and you want to help somebody use it.”
The exceptions in Bill S-10 are based on Article 21 of the Convention — an article that Turcotte himself wrote. Article 21 was intended to allow NATO countries to continue to work with U.S. forces. The United States, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, China and Russia are the major non-signatory states.
“The scope of the exceptions was very narrow,” said John Seibert, executive director of Project Ploughshares, an ecumenical think tank on defence and disarmament issues.
“This is a wide open door… It really defeats the primary purpose of the treaty.”
“The Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act fully implements Canada’s commitments to the Convention, and strikes a good balance between humanitarian obligations while preserving our national security and defence interests,” the foreign affairs media department told The Catholic Register in an e-mail. “Canada’s position is based on Canada’s own humanitarian and security and defence requirements.”
The media lines from the government are illogical, according to Turcotte.
“This makes no military sense and no moral sense,” he said. “Whether it’s a sin of commission or a sin of omission, when one is using a weapon with full knowledge that it is going to cause extensive collateral damage both at the time of use and also post-conflict because of the high dud rate, then as far as I’m concerned that’s an abrogation of our responsibilities under military law, let alone humanitarian law.”
One academic study found that 98 per cent of all recorded casualties from cluster munitions have been civilians. The Geneva Conventions require soldiers to ensure civilians are not targeted, said Turcotte.
Asked whether cluster munitions are immoral, foreign affairs answered: “They have been used in approximately 34 countries and territories to date, often with devastating impact on civilians due to their wide-area effect and to sub-munitions failing to explode.”
Hannon believes the Department of National Defence never wanted the treaty and won out in interdepartmental lobbying over the enabling legislation.
“Then they just got carried away and started saying not only would clusters be allowed to be used but we would assist in using them. I think they’re playing, they’re twisting around legal definitions and creating a legal pretzel,” Hannon said.
KHARTOUM – The spokesperson of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad, has emphatically denied allegations of using cluster bombs in fighting against rebels of South Kordofan State.
Last week the London-based Independent newspaper published two photos of unexploded cluster bomb allegedly dropped by a Sudanese warplane on 15 April in Ongolo village in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan.
The pictures identified the bomb as “a Soviet-made RBK-500 cluster bomb containing AO-2.5 RT submunitions”
Cluster bombs are a type of explosive weapon which scatters sub-munitions or bomblets over an area. The use of cluster bombs is prohibited under the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) which, since its adoption in May 2008, has been signed by 71 country states not including Sudan, China and the US.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based advocacy group, issued a statement urging Sudan to probe the discovery and join the CCM.
But according to Al-Sawarmi, SAF does not even have cluster bombs to use them in South Kordofan, where it has been battling rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North since June last year.
“Whether or not we end up joining the international treaty that bans cluster bombs, the fact remains that we never use them in our military operations and we don’t have them to begin with” he said in statements published by local newspapers on Sunday.
The rebels accuse SAF of continuous aerial bombardment and use of weapons prohibited under international laws.