South Lebanon landmines open up wounds of past wars

Alwaght- 16 years after the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon, the land remains infested with hidden explosives, left behind as reminders of the wounds of past wars. Planted by the Israelis during the occupation of South Lebanon, and afterward dropped during the 2006 war, landmines continue to kill and injure Lebanese civilians with children being the most common victims.

They come in different shapes and colors and are sometimes intriguing for the inexperienced eye, especially children. But many at a time have these odd objects exploded and caused physical harm to owners of fields or passers-by on a footpath. In some cases, the landmine is triggered by a single step that proves to be deadly.

Unexploded ordnances also pose an identical threat to the lives and security of residents of South Lebanon, which has witnessed several wars against the Israeli regime, the latest being the July war in 2006. Even then Israeli warplanes dropped cluster bombs that have not been cleared.

Human Rights Watch which has called for a ban on the use of landmines among other groups defines anti-personnel landmines as weapons that cannot discriminate between a civilian or a soldier and wind up killing and maiming civilians that step on them or pick them up long after a conflict.

Given this definition and the similar results that are left by uncleared cluster bombs and unexploded ordnances, they are clearly direct violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that protect an individual’s right to life, liberty and security. Furthermore, they violate many articles of the Convention on the Rights of the child; the right to life, a safe environment in which to play, and health.

Yet, the international community has shown that punishing the Israeli regime over human rights violations is beyond its power as Tel Aviv enjoys Washington’s staunch support and protection. All the while, children continue to lose their limbs because of Israeli-planted bombs camouflaged among rocks and wildflowers.

2016 was the year that South Lebanon would become landmine-free. However, in light of regional developments and more pressing threats, funding from sponsor-countries has significantly decreased. This may mean, according to security sources, that the campaign to remove all landmines from South Lebanon will not end before 2020.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese army along with international and local groups are persisting in their efforts to make South Lebanon entirely safe from these remnants of Israeli wars for its residents.

Efforts include pressuring the Israeli regime into handing over more maps that indicate the locations where it dropped these bombs because the ones submitted to the UN are insufficient and inaccurate.

As of 2015, 56 people were killed and at least 400 injured as a result of landmines, the bulk of whom are tobacco farmers.

Not only have they claimed lives, but these hidden threats are also hurtful to the livelihoods of many families. Many farmers are obstructed from cultivating their land and profiting from produce.

On an area that stretches for 37 square kilometres, 900 locations have been pinpointed where one million and a half cluster bombs were scattered near the end of July 2006.

Recently, new light was shed on a force that is unfamiliar to the Lebanese community; an all-female landmine clearing team came to the scene armed with the motive of disposing the remainder of the four million cluster munitions.

The eight-member team of South Lebanon women—among whom are housewives, teachers, and mothers— has taken on the task of saving lives and defying

It was established by de-mining NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and partly funded by Australian International Aid.

The political and security situation in Lebanon has been described as a ticking bomb, waiting to explode in the face of the Lebanese. However, away from metaphors there are still millions of unexploded landmines and cluster bombs scattered in South Lebanon that can blast at the slightest movement. Both the people and the land are rife with wounds.

By Alwaght

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