Cluster bombs, manufactured mainly in the United States and in Israel,
are small bombs that splinter into many pieces, raining shrapnel upon
an area 2-3 kilometers from where the bomb hits. For this reason,
cluster bombs disproportionately impact civilian populations.
Since the Israel-Lebanon ceasefire was declared on August 14th, about 20 Lebanese civilians, including children, were killed by unexploded cluster bombs left by the Israeli military after their 34-day invasion of Lebanon. During the war, over 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed, many of them by cluster bombs. The number of casualties by cluster bombs increased significantly in the last part of the war, when a U.S. rush shipment of weaponry, including cluster bombs, was sent to Israel.
Today six nations took these facts to the United Nations (UN) to ask for 'cluster bombs' to be added to a UN list of internationally-banned weapons. Austria, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden and the Vatican called for the ban during an international review conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
The Convention restricts or outlaws the use of designated types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering, or to affect civilians indiscriminately.
Since 2003, an optional protocol to the Convention obliges signatories to ensure the clearance of any unexploded munitions they used during a conflict. If a country is unable to carry out the operation itself, it must provide assistance, including finance. If Israel were a signatory to that protocol, it would be required to clear out not only the cluster bombs left from its 34-day war with Lebanon, but also thousands of land mines left in southern Lebanon after the 18-year Israeli occupation that ended in 2000.
Of the 100 states that have ratified the Convention, only 23 have signed up to the protocol on the "explosive remnants of war". Neither Lebanon nor Israel have subscribed to the protocol.
The United Nations has estimated that it will take at least two years to clear the scourge scattered across more than 390 locations in Lebanon.