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Removing cluster bombs from soil

By VBS.TV staff
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Removing cluster bombs from soil
  • Bombs buried in the soil along Lebanon's southern border with Israel were ferreted out
  • Small U.N. team from the French battalion assigned to remove cluster bombs
  • Team estimates it's scanned about 18 percent of the area blanketed in cluster bombs
  • Lebanon
  • Israel
  • United Nations

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Lebanon's southern border with Israel (VBS.TV) -- Deposited along Lebanon's southern border with Israel are vast numbers of American-made cluster bombs buried beneath the grasses of the region's valleys.

Originally used by the Israeli military to combat Hezbollah forces firing rockets across the border, the bombs impacted in the soil were being ferreted out by a small U.N. team from the French battalion.

Eddy Moretti, VBS's creative director, and a small film crew donned camouflaged PPO -- protective personal equipment -- and tagged along on one of their minesweeping missions in October 2007.

We were brought first to an abandoned soccer field. Yellow rope was strung around the field and the surrounding forest, indicating areas that had already been cleared. One soldier stood over a patch of grass and a small pile of scrap metal.

"This morning, we started here at 6:00. Two hours later," he said, pointing to a the yellow rope four feet farther into the forest, "we are here."

The team estimates that it has scanned about 18 percent of the area that the Israeli army blanketed in cluster bombs during the conflicts with Hezbollah.

Every time a single bomb is launched, it releases dozens of submunitions that fall across the landscape, many of which fail to detonate and now cover about 12,500 square meters of the region.

By the time we met up with the team, it had retrieved 53 submunitions. They believe that approximately 1 million of the parent bombs are hidden in Lebanon's southern valleys alone.

Procedurally, the task is daunting: Inch by inch, they push forward, chopping the long grasses with garden shears to increase ground visibility and then running over the area slowly with minesweepers. The minesweepers are handheld devices that look like typical metal detectors, emitting a variety of high-pitched whines that vary depending on the density of the ground.

This day, the team pushed on together slowly, sensitive to each of the various frequencies and graciously telling us as soon as they found something.

By the end of the afternoon, they had unearthed a single submunition -- not a bad haul by any stretch. It was a 155-millimeter explosive about the size of a fist. This represents just one of 88 submunitions that are held inside each American-made cluster bomb. The team detonated the explosive, surrounding it with sandbags and standing a safe distance away.

After the explosion, Eddy surveyed a large hunk of detonated submunition: "Two lives saved?"

The French U.N. team leader nodded. "Yes, two lives. Or two legs."

See more of this story at VBS.TV.