Millions of Unexploded Bombs Litter Southern Beirut


Sept. 26, 2006 — -- The people of southern Lebanon call it "the second war."

The 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah left behind a weapon that is still proving deadly, more than a month after the cease-fire.

"These are the clusters that are in this town alone."

Jihad Samhat was pointing to seven red dots on a map that was spread out on the hood of his 4x4.

The red dots marked the areas the United Nations believes were hit with cluster bombs.

"One red dot is hundreds, maybe thousands, of bomblets," Samhat said. "It all depends on the amount of canisters they have dropped on that area."

Samhat was a U.S. Army private from California.

Now he works for the United Nations, searching the small towns and villages of southern Lebanon for unexploded cluster bombs.

He says he never has to look too far.

Cluster bombs were fired by Israel during the 34-day war. The weapons were made and supplied by the United States.

Forty percent of these bombs fail to go off on impact, and explode later. The slightest touch can trigger a deadly explosion.

U.N. officials estimate there could be more than a million of these bombs throughout southern Lebanon.

Samhat pointed to the side of the road where seven small canisters, about the size of soda cans, rested in the dirt.

They may be small, but they are built to pierce armor.

Every day, injuries or deaths occur as a result of the bombs.

Twenty-one people have been killed since the cease-fire on Aug. 14.

It has become especially dangerous now that the people of southern Lebanon have started to return to towns and villages.

Rebuilding homes and working in the fields can be deadly, though.

"There are a lot we can't see, in the rubble," Samhat said. "In the vegetations, in the leaves, and hanging on trees."

The Turkiyas lost their 24-year-old son last week. He was picking fruit from an orchard when he stepped on a bomb.

"My son, Ali, like all of us, was exposed to danger during the war," Khalil Turkiya said. "He survived the war, but he was killed by a cluster bomb."

Turkiya says the cluster bombs are all over the neighborhood.

President Reagan banned the sale of U.S.-made cluster bombs to Israel for six years after it was discovered the bombs were fired into Lebanese civilian areas in the 1980s.

Even though American-made cluster bombs were again fired by Israel into populated areas, Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, makes no apologies.

"The Israeli military does not use any weaponry that is illegal under international law," Regev said, "or that is illegal under international convention."

There has been a major push by 151 countries to ban cluster bombs.

Samhat says if Americans knew what was happening on the ground in southern Lebanon, they would likely protest.

"I would defiantly say that the population of America would agree with me that cluster bombs are a bad thing and they should not be used," Samhat said.

The race is now on for Samhat and his team.

Every day, they rush to find cluster bombs before civilians stumble onto them.

The United Nations estimates it will take at least a year before it can make southern Lebanon safe again.

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