UN: We've cleared half the cluster bombs Israel dropped on Lebanon
UNIFIL chief says his forces have succeeded in preserving cease-fire, says no evidence of arms smuggling.
The United Nations said on Thursday that it has managed to clear wide swaths of south Lebanon of half of all cluster bombs fired by Israel during the Second Lebanon War two years ago.
In a report released on Thursday, the world body warned that the remaining ordnances still pose a threat to the local population, particulary in the southern Lebanon village of Kafer Sir.
"We've managed to clean up about half of the known cluster munition strike sites in this village. We hope to have the whole village completely cleared by the end of the year," the UN Mine Action Coordination Center of South Lebanon said on Thursday. "This whole village was covered with unexploded cluster munitions. They were on people's rooftops, hanging from trees, even in playgrounds."
Chris Clark, the head of the center, said 20 people have been killed and 194 have been wounded thus far as a result of the cluster bombs. In total, the UN says its field workers have found and destroyed upwards of 150,000 cluster munitions.
"I'm optimistic about the situation," Clark said. "Our goal is to address the worst of the problem by the end of this year. I don't want even one more civilian to have to fall victim to these horrible weapons. We'll do everything we can to make the area safe and let people resume their normal lives."
UNIFIL: Cease-fire remains intact
Major General Claudio Graziano, the head of UNIFIL, the international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, said during an appearance Thursday at UN headquarters in New York that his soldiers have succeeded in fulfilling their mandate thus far and preserving the cease-fire.
When asked about the smuggling of weapons into Lebanon, Graziano said he could not ensure that the area under his jurisdiction would be impenetrable, though he did add that there is no evidence of arms smuggling nor has there been movement of armed gunmen.
Graziano would not comment on the newly sworn-in Lebanese cabinet whose guidelines state that Hezbollah enjoys the right to "liberate occupied lands," though he did say it was important for Lebanon to carry out its obligations.
The United States expressed anger at the new Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for yielding to Hezbollah's demands on various matters.
Israeli defense officials said the new government platform is a worrisome development that attests to Hezbollah's growing strength as well as the continuing disintegration of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Defense officials in Jerusalem believe Hezbollah is seeking a new pretext for prolonging its armed struggle with Israel. One of the possibilities being examined by the Shi'ite organization is attempting to down Israel Air Force planes during their sorties over Lebanon.