Egeland: Israel's late-stage shelling of Lebanon was immoral
UN humanitarian chief: Civilians returning to southern Lebanon homes experiencing problems as a result of unexploded cluster bombs.
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations humanitarian chief on Wednesday accused Israel of "shocking" and "completely immoral" behavior in its war against Hezbollah for dropping large numbers of cluster bombs when a cease-fire was in sight.
Jan Egeland told a news briefing that that Israel had either made a "terribly wrong decision" or had "started thinking afterwards." The remarks were unusually harsh even for Egeland, who often violates an unwritten rule that UN officials should not criticize member states too severely.
"What's shocking and I would say, to me, completely immoral is that 90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," Jan Egeland said at a news conference.
The cluster bombs used in the war had an unusually high dud rate, possibly because they were old, Egeland said. Usually 10-15 percent of the bomblets fail to explode immediately, but some research has estimated that up to 70 percent of the Israeli bomblets failed to explode initially.
Civilians returning to their homes in southern Lebanon are experiencing "massive problems" as a result of these unexploded munitions, Egeland said.
Approximately 250,000 Lebanese, of the one million displaced, cannot move back into their homes because they have either been destroyed or are littered with unexploded munitions.
"Every day people are maimed, wounded and are killed by these ordnance," Egeland said, contending that this loss of life - and the late-stage bombing that is responsible for it - "shouldn't have happened."
Thirteen people, including three children, had been killed between the August 14 cease-fire and Tuesday, and researchers with Human Rights Watch said that the density with which Israel used cluster bombs in southern Lebanon was worse than any place they had seen.
Egeland urged those countries who had manufactured the cluster bombs and sold them to Israel, including the United States, to have "serious talks with Israel."
The UN Mine Action Coordination Center, which has so far assessed 85 percent of the bombed areas in Lebanon, has identified 379 bomb strike areas that are contaminated with as many as 100,000 unexploded bomblets.
Nonetheless, Egeland called the current situation in Lebanon "remarkable" because about 750,000 people had managed to return home in the span of only a few days.