Cluster bombs, people. Hundreds of thousands of them.In the wake of the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, southern Lebanon is pretty quiet. But every once in a while an explosion rolls over the region's seaside cliffs and green hills, testimony to the ongoing cleanup of ordnance leftover from the conflict. This is the subject of my latest piece for The Washington Times:
Lt. Col. Ciccarelli Giordano, commander of an Italian army cavalry regiment that belongs to a battle group based on a hilltop near the Mediterranean coast, is philosophical about the dangerous ground his troops tread."You know what happens after war," he said.There are 11,000 troops -- including 3,000 Italians -- assigned to the U.N. force, up from 3,000 just six months ago. ... The Italian contingent is drawn from forces recently withdrawn from Iraq.The Italian battle group's experiences in Iraq and in providing security for the 2004 Olympics in Athens have helped prepare it for the dangerous job of defusing or destroying unexploded munitions.Italian EOD teams are modeled after their British counterparts. The Italians train in the U.K. and use mostly British-made kit, including Wheelbarrow robots. They ride in Puma armored vehicles tailed by trucks and ambulances. They dress in your standard bomb suits. And they stay very, very busy.
"Yesterday we found a new cluster bomb-contaminated area," bomb squad Capt. George Colombo said. Minutes later, a distant blast testified to another squad's work.The U.N. estimates there are between 700,000 and 1 million unexploded munitions in southern Lebanon, some left over from the 1978 Israeli invasion.Less than 15,000 have been destroyed thus far, said French Lt. Col. Jerome Salle, a U.N. spokesman.Most of the stories from my stint in Lebanon are still embargoed by my boss at DTI. Expect a flurry of posts in a few weeks.--David Axe