Approximately forty years ago, two villages in the Northeast region of Lebanon were devastated by a barrage of cluster bombs.
The villages of Younin and Shaaet were a major target of the Israeli armed forces during an intense conflict that escalated across four months in the summer of 1982.
Now decades later, much of the land remains unsafe due to the unexploded cluster bombs that are still scattered throughout the villages.
Reportedly more than 640,000 square meters of land are still hazardous across the area of Arsal due to the fact that sometimes cluster bombs fail, for multiple reasons, to explode when they are dropped.
However, their impact on communities is always felt across generations. People do not know what to expect if they wander off for any reason.
A local resident told Relief Work International: “My daughter found more than 20 cluster munitions in our garden, but the real tragedy was when her son carried a cluster munition from the garden. He was lucky to survive the incident.”
Mr. Ibrahim Dorra, the Mayor of the village of Younin, explained that several members of the community were sadly not as fortunate. He stated, “Cluster munitions killed two innocent children in front of their home. There is no doubt we don’t feel safe.”
Like landmines, cluster bombs also prevent villages, towns, and cities from developing and rob communities of economic opportunities, as the Mayor of the village of Shaaet, Ali Attar, explained.
He stated: “The contamination affected the whole village. It reached all the vital places. Locals found about 40 cluster munitions in different places, such as water channels, farms, houses, and agricultural lands.”
Back on May 6th, 2011, Cluster Munition Coalition members and cluster bomb survivors joined Lebanese government officials and United Nations representatives in Beirut to welcome the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lebanon.
They announced that Lebanon would host a global meeting to discuss the Convention in September 2011.
However, the convention concluded after one week without materializing anything beyond that – or at least none was recorded by any news outlets.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster bombs; a type of explosive weapon that scatters submunitions “bomblets” over an area.
The convention was adopted on May 30th, 2008, in Dublin, and was opened for signature on December 3rd, 2008, in Oslo. As of September 2018, 108 states have signed the treaty and 107 have ratified it or acceded to it – Lebanon included.
Countries that ratify the convention will be obliged “never under any circumstances to”:
(a) Use cluster munitions;
(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;
(c) Assist, encourage, or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.
Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is reportedly working now closely with both Lebanese villages in order to rid them of their cluster munition burden. Mayor Attar hailed MAG as the village’s “economic savior and safety net.”