Israel Reported to Have Used Uranium Bomb in Lebanon
To the ever-expanding list of ghoulish weaponry Israel used in the Lebanon war, we have to add yet another: a uranium bomb. Robert Fisk reports that in two Lebanese sites bombed by Israel, researchers have discovered traces of a type of uranium used in bunker busting bombs:
…Scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium-based munitions may now also be included in Israel’s weapons inventory – and were used against targets in Lebanon. According to Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed “elevated radiation signatures”. Both have been forwarded for further examination to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire for mass spectrometry – used by the Ministry of Defence – which has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples.
Busby has several theories of what might’ve happened. The most likely one is:
The weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium.”
One reason enriched uranium might be of concern is because it is the most radioactive of all three forms of uranium.
Though there is no scientifically verifiable proof that uranium weapons of this type cause cancer, there is reason for concern:
American and British forces used hundreds of tons of depleted uranium (DU) shells in Iraq in 1991 – their hardened penetrator warheads manufactured from the waste products of the nuclear industry – and five years later, a plague of cancers emerged across the south of Iraq.
Initial US military assessments warned of grave consequences for public health if such weapons were used against armoured vehicles. But the US administration and the British government later went out of their way to belittle these claims. Yet the cancers continued to spread amid reports that civilians in Bosnia – where DU was also used by Nato aircraft – were suffering new forms of cancer. DU shells were again used in the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq…
Dr. Busby reinforces this concern by noting the ease with which radioactive particles can travel through the air:
“When a uranium penetrator hits a hard target, the particles of the explosion are very long-lived in the environment,” Dr Busby said yesterday. “They spread over long distances. They can be inhaled into the lungs. The military really seem to believe that this stuff is not as dangerous as it is.” Yet why would Israel use such a weapon when its targets – in the case of Khiam, for example – were only two miles from the Israeli border? The dust ignited by DU munitions can be blown across international borders…
“The health effects on local civilian populations following the use of large uranium penetrators and the large amounts of respirable uranium oxide particles in the atmosphere,” the Busby report says, “are likely to be significant…
An independent scientist not involved in the Lebanese research comments on the weapons:
Chris Bellamy, the professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University, who has reviewed the Busby report, said: “At worst it’s some sort of experimental weapon with an enriched uranium component the purpose of which we don’t yet know. At best – if you can say that – it shows a remarkably cavalier attitude to the use of nuclear waste products.”
The Israeli press has chronicled the Israeli government’s remarkably cavalier and incompetent relief efforts to help northern Israelis during the war. Some have likened it to the U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina. The claim is that the Israeli government essentially absconded and left the field largely to non-profit relief agencies to provide many essential services. Can there be any more cynical abuse of a nation’s citizenry than when its government uses weapons that may very well kill its own citizens, if not now then down the road.
Fisk reports that uranium weapons have not been banned under international law because governments whose militaries use them (the U.S. foremost among them) argue that the deleterious health effects have not been proven scientifically. But isn’t it convenient that a country which wishes to use a noxious weapon should argue the it is not dangerous to civilians?
Professor Bellamy provides a deeper discussion of the scientific questions involved in this story.
UPDATE: Richard Gold of Engage, a supposedly non-partisan site which speaks out against anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, informs me that the UN Environment Program released a November 7th statement that in its sampling of 32 south Lebanon sites it did NOT find evidence of uranium-enriched munitions. This would appear to raise questions about the reliability of Fisk’s report. But we should keep in mind that the UNEP expeditions sampled 32 sites and the European Committee on Radiation Risk presumably sampled other sites. It is entirely possible that two separate groups sampling entirely separate sites might’ve found different evidence and come to different conclusions.
But before the ultra-rights start wagging fingers and jumping for joy they should know what else the release confirms:
The team also confirmed the use of white phosphorous-containing artillery and mortar ammunition by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)…
UNEP agrees with the findings and conclusions of the mission of the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteurs (published 2 October 2006), which recognized the huge number of cluster bombs with a low detonation rate dropped by the IDF over the last days before the ceasefire as the main remaining problem to return to normal life in the affected regions.
9 thoughts on “Israel Reported to Have Used Uranium Bomb in Lebanon – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Thanks for this post, Richard.
I posted about it, too, and got a flurry of protests from the internet “protect Israel’s name at all costs” crowd. Their main argument is threefold: 1) Robert Fisk is involved, so it’s a lie. 2) If it’s not a lie, it’s justified to protect Israel. or 3) Everybody else does bad things, why can’t Israel?
I think that item number 1 is a perfectly legitimate criticism. What’s wrong with pointing out that this comes from a highly unreliable source?
Joshua: Look even George Bush gets things right once in a while. So whatever you think about Robert Fisk, you may not dismiss it merely because of the source. Besides, Fisk has editors who edit his material & confirm its accuracy. And in addition, his story was not generated by him. It is based on legitimate scientific research & confirmed by an independent scientific source. If you get hung up on who wrote the story intstead of the actual substance of it you do an injustice to the truth.
Leila: Yeah, it’s the “protect Israel at all costs” crowd. They don’t realize they’d be doing Israel far more of a favor if they actually grappled w. the issues rather than denying them out of hand.
Fisk probably gets it right about as much as Bush, which is to say, very rarely.
I read the article, and it’s not very convicing. Largely an opinion piece masquarading as analysis, with a few snippets of quotes from another source to give it the veneer of an effort at journalism.
BTW: I saw Leila’s entry on her blog on this. Sad to see how the dove has become so hateful. But a word of advice. If you don’t want Israel to bomb parts of your country, it’s best not to allow Hezbollah to stage unprovoked raids across the border to capture soldiers. Israel left Lebanon, completely, when it withdrew in 2000. Rather than make peace, Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to use that time to increase the threat to Israel by building up its forces.
And Lebanon’s environment was not the only one hurt by the war. At the very least, the oil spills can be cleaned up. By contrast, the deforestation in the north of Israel undid 60 years of making the desert bloom. So Leila, should Israelis never forgive the Lebanese?
Joshua: YOu are dead wrong. Fisk provides some background material describing past Israeli history regarding use of questionable weapons systems like DIME, phosphorus & cluster bombs. This is not new material nor is it meant to be.
But there is absolutely a good & new story based on good science fr. Chris Busby, it is buttressed by an independent assessment by another scientist, Chris Bellamy (did you not read the 2nd related story linked on the same pg?). They detected enriched uranium samples in not one but two sites. They detected a signature that indicates a weapons grade use of uranium. How do you explain it? Enriched uranium doesn’t just happen.
Leila is one of the least hateful I know in the world, period. She’s a saint compared to me. To call her “hateful” tells us a lot more about you than it does about her. Neither she nor I need any ‘advice’ from you regarding Hezbollah, the war or anything else, so I’d suggest you proffer it somewhere it might be more welcome.
Israel DID NOT leave Lebanon completely. It still retains Shebaa Farms which even by Israeli admission belongs either to Lebanon or Syria. Plus, Israel holds many Lebanese prisoners rotting in Israeli jails w. no likelihood of release. You make it appear as if there was no unfinished business when Israel “left” in 2000. This is far fr. the case.
You also show yr true colors when you try to make equivalent the environmental damage done to Israel & Lebanon. $1 billion in damage to infrastructure. Oil damaging coastlines from Lebanon to Greece & beyond. 25% of the population homeless & their homes destroyed. 1,200 dead.
Do I approve of what Hezbollah did to Israel? By no means. But you don’t get to spread the pernicious proposition that there was any equivalence. Israel takes the cake hands down in terms of the devastation wrought.
“Israel DID NOT leave Lebanon completely. It still retains Shebaa Farms which even by Israeli admission belongs either to Lebanon or Syria.”
It belongs to Syria by all reliable sources. Sheba Farms was a pretext that was brought up when Israel did everything that was demanded of them. But it just goes to show, that no matter what Israel gives back, there will always be a pretext from Hezbollah, Hamas or the other Arab rejectionists in this world to continue their racist hate campaign. And there will also be useful idiots like yourself to apologize for them.
Israel does hold Lebanese prisoners. In particular, Samir Kuntar, who Hezbollah claimed was the “provocation” for the raid. Samir Kuntar was captured on Israeli soil after he had murdered an Israeli family (which included crushing a young girl’s skull). You’re damn right he’s rotting away in jail, and damn right that there is little likelihood of release. But for you the barbaric murder of Israelis makes someone a “political prisoner.” Perhaps because you consider such murders “political acts.”
The bottom line, Lebanon has no basis whatsoever not to recognize Israel and guarantee it full peace. If they don’t like certain policies of the Israeli government, that’s fine. You deal with it in a diplomatic and civilized manner, not by allowing a racist hate group to form a militia in the south and encroach on Israel’s sovereignty.
As for Leila, it seems that your assessment is more directed toward a belief in reputation, rather than an objective assessment of what was actually said. Laila, whatever her “dovish” history, posted a frightening hate screed. Apparently, the Lebanese have some god given right to attack Israelis, and then get all indignant when Israel comes back after them. It’s time to expose such double standard special pleading for what it is. The sad thing is that people like you masquerade as “progressives” when in fact you support a nefarious and racist political agenda.
After an war between the U.S. and Britain in which Britain withdrew from our territory but retained Manhattan would it be a “pretext” for the U.S. to consider itself still at war until it regained the territory?
Besides, it Shebaa is Syrian (by no means as settled a question as you make it out to be), then there’s also a little matter of another piece of Syrian territory that Israel retains, the Golan. So don’t let’s talk about territory as a “pretext.” Land is a critical factor in national identity around the world not just in the ME. But in the ME it is an especially crucial factor in intra-national disputes.
God, spare us the useless propaganda drivel. This is so mindnumbingly obtuse as to beggar belief. Israel WILL eventually return almost all territory conquered in 1967. And when it does so there WILL BE peace. So you can go on & on ad nauseum w. yr. mindless arguments. But reality will win over your hopeless perspective.
Gratuitous personal insult. Read my comment rules. You’re banned till you learn some manners. If you want to be unbanned you may contact me & after informing me that you understand the rules & won’t violate them again I’ll reinstate you.
What a concession to reality! Must’ve really hurt to have to make such an admission.
Anything you could tell me about the Israeli Arab conflict I’ve already heard so pls. don’t breathlessly inform me about people like Sami Kuntar as if I might never have heard of him. I know precisely what he did. He is a beast. He deserved his punishment. But as Brad Burston wrote in Haaretz (is such an Israeli journalist a “useful idiot” or do you stop at the water’s edge in similarly insulting Israelis?), I’d freely let him go if it would guarantee the release of all of Israel’s Hezbollah hostages & contribute to an atmosphere in which a larger peace can be discussed.
And no, I don’t believe that terrorist violence (whether perpetrated by Arabs or Israelis) is justified. So don’t go spreading calumnies saying otherwise.
Perhaps in yr fevered little mind. But unfortunately for you there’s a small matter of a Lebanese prime minister and the rest of his countrymen & women who see otherwise. So go on & spout all you want. It won’t amount to a hill of beans in this world to quote Casablanca.
Oh, I see–in just the same civilized & diplomatic manner Israel deals with its dispute with the Palestinians? And just the same civilized manner it dealt with the entire Lebanese nation when it reduced it to a heap of ashes this past summer. Puh-leeze. Give me a break. You’re serving up a load of steaming manure & pretending it’s foie gras.
Laila doesn’t have a hateful bone in her body & your a cur for trying to claim otherwise.
Laila never supported Hezbollah’s attack against Israel. And as for getting indignant, yeah they were a tad miffed when Israel reduced it’s entire nation to a heap of rubble. Those A-rabs do tend to get a little hot under the collar when Israel engages in a bit of minor vengeance. I guess it’s one of their cultural traits that we westerners have to suffer with.
You’re full of it. I don’t support Hezbollah nor do I support violence on either side. I dare you to show me a single word that says otherwise. But I don’t support Israeli violence either & denounce it just as full-throatedly as I would Arab violence. That’s what gets yr goat isn’t it? Denouncing Arabs is fine. But denouncing Israeli policy is treif. Gimme a break.
1. The state of New york and Newyork city was seized not by war but was actually PAYED FOR. So 1 Me 0 u
2. what evidence do u have to show that arabs will be peaceful when they get there land back, they lied during the oslo accord and they lied during the pullout of Lebanon. Me 2, U 0
3, You think that letting a known murderer go will induce peace? u got to be kidding me 3, u 0
4. Lebanon does not offically recognize isreal its in their charter not too look it up. me 4, u 0
5. Isreal did deal with the plo in a civilized manner ie oslo accords but after the plo broke that accord, isreal must react. me 5, U 0
6. Why did they have there homes destoryed?? 2 isrealis captured by a militia that has the full support of the lebanonese people. me 6, u 0
7. You get one point Me 6 U 1. Only because u decided to silence your opponents when u realized u have no valid agrument. I believe hitler did same thing with his enabling act put in march 1933. So ban me u cocksucking idiot.
I can’t prove that something will definitely happen in the future. Nor can you prove that Palestinians will make war if they get their land back. That’s why it’s the future. It hasn’t happened yet & so we don’t know for sure what will happen.
The Israelis lied as much as the Palestinians did during Oslo. Neither side stayed true to the provisions of the document. The same holds true for the Lebanon withdrawal. Israel retained & still retains Shebaa Farms.
Don’t argue w. me. Argue with Haaretz’s award-winning columnist Bradley Burston who wrote those words. I happen to agree with him, but he said them first.
And as for giving the enemy something you’d prefer not to give them (in this case, Sami Kuntar), that’s what warring peoples do to make peace. Sometimes they just hold their noses and compromise in the firm belief that it will bring them something more important than the concession they are making. In this case, peace. Your problem is that you don’t want concessions, you don’t want peace. You want endless war because against all the facts you believe that somehow Israel will triumph in the end.
One of the endearing qualities of all you propagandists is that you spout barely supportable ideas & then tell me to look them up. If you want to be credible I’m afraid it is you who will have to provide evidence of yr charges. I don’t do propagandists’ work for them. Until you do, yr charges aren’t worth a wad of 1-ply toilet paper.
Bogus history. Both sides broke the accord. Just as both sides broke the Road Map accord though propagandists like you pretend that only one side (the bad guys) broke the Road Map.
You are an idiot, aren’t you? Hezbollah did NOT have the “full support of the Lebanese people.” It doesn’t even have such support now despite the fact that Israel mistakenly destroyed an entire nation when it’s beef was with but a single political/ethnic faction. Have you read a Lebanese blog lately? Of course you haven’t. You can’t be bothered to read the views of Lebanese about Hezbollah (which are deeply ambivalent and even inimical).
Besides, to destroy an entire country for the kidnapping of 2 soldiers is sheer lunacy. But I guess it takes a lunatic to understand a government that appears to have turned into one.
Only too happy to oblige…