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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The IDF on Saturday denied a report by the British newspaper The Independent claiming that Israel used uranium-based munitions, including uranium-tipped bunker-buster bombs, during its war against Hizbullah in Lebanon this summer.
"The IDF Spokesman's Office wants to make it clear that no munitions containing uranium were used in the war in Lebanon," an IDF spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the report, scientists found two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs which showed "elevated radiation signatures." "Scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbullah 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," it said.
"The weapon was [either] some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or other experimental weapon (e.g., a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash ...[or it] was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium," Dr. Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, told The Independent.
A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium.
Enriched uranium is produced from natural uranium ore and is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. A waste product of the enrichment process is depleted uranium, an extremely hard metal used in anti-tank missiles for penetrating armor. Depleted uranium is less radioactive than natural uranium, which is less radioactive than enriched uranium.
The paper said 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.
"When a uranium penetrator hits a hard target, the particles of the explosion are very long-lived in the environment," Busby was quoted as saying. "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, the paper asked, 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, just as the chlorine gas used in attacks by both sides in the First World War often blew back on its perpetrators.
Chris Bellamy, the professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University, who has reviewed the Busby report, told The Independent: "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."
Asked by The Independent if the IDF had used uranium-based munitions in Lebanon, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said: "Israel does not use any weaponry which is not authorized by international law or international conventions." Currently, international law does not cover modern uranium weapons because they had not yet been invented when the Geneva Convention rules were written.
Despite the denial, the Independent report, written by Robert Fisk, asserted that "Israel has a poor reputation for telling the truth about its use of weapons in Lebanon."
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