UN envoy: Israel broke int'l law in war

Radhika Coomaraswamy "horrified" by destruction of Lebanese village Bint Jbail.

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April 13, 2007 10:21
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A UN envoy for children in conflict said Thursday she had been horrified by the destruction of a Lebanese village besieged by IDF troops last year, and that many of Israel's actions during the war against Hizbullah had violated international law. The UN's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts, Radhika Coomaraswamy, told reporters she would discuss Israel's conduct in the Second Lebanon War when she meets its government on the next stop of her Middle East tour. "I think the message is very clear - the need to respect civilians" and to distinguish between civilians and combatants, Coomaraswamy said in Beirut after a three-day visit to Lebanon. She referred to Israel's dropping of millions of cluster bombs during the 34-day war and its "disproportionate use of force," which destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure. She said she was "horrified" by the destruction she saw in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbail "and the considerable impact that it had on children." IDF troops besieged the southern Lebanese village as it was a Hizbullah stronghold. "Many of the actions taken in the Lebanese war appear to have violated international humanitarian law," Coomaraswamy said when asked if she would be raising with Israeli officials what the IDF had done in Lebanon. She said she would add her voice to those pressing Israel to provide data on the location of the cluster bombs dropped on southern Lebanon in the last days of the war. "Apparently they do have the data in the computer," she said. In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yariv Ovadia declined to indicate Thursday how Israel would respond to Coomaraswamy's push for maps of the cluster bomb areas. "We will deal with her request when she arrives," Ovadia said. Asked about her accusations that Israel had violated international law and employed disproportionate force, Ovadia said: "No comment." Israel's bombing of Lebanese infrastructure - including water and fuel supplies, bridges, schools, hospitals, the airport and electricity network - is costing the country US$2.8 billion in repairs. The United Nations and human rights groups say that Israel dropped about 4 million cluster bomblets on Lebanon during the war. It is thought that up to 1 million bombs failed to explode. Since the war ended on August 14, such ordnance has killed 29 people and injured another 215 - 90 of them children. Coomaraswamy said the main aim now was not to eliminate the unexploded cluster bomblets, but to ensure they do not cause further casualties. Ordnance clearing specialists hope that through an awareness program they will be able to stop casualties from occurring by December. Fifty-six ordnance clearing teams from around the world are at work in southern Lebanon, she said.

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