BEIRUT, MAY 16 – Lebanon is still threatened by mines, a plague that a delegation of the Mine Action Support Group (MASG) led by the Italian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Inigo Lambertini were able to verify during their visit with the blue helmets of UNIFIL Headquarters in the Southern part of the country.
Lambertini and the MASG representatives met today with Brig Gen. Francesco Olla Commander of Sector West of the UN peacekeeping mission, after stopping at the Tyre Headquarters and meeting the Deputy Head of Mission Imran Riza.
“I confirmed the strong commitment of Italy”, Lambertini said. Italy is chairing MASG for 2016-17. Given its often troubled history, Lebanon is one of the countries whose civilian population continues to be threatened by the scourge of mines. Thousands of people have been killed or injured by land mines and explosive remnants. Undetonated land mines in Lebanon killed 933 people and injured a further 2,780 people between 1975 and 2012, according to the Mines Advisory Group, a British NGO.
Israel left around 550,000 mines embedded across southern Lebanon when it withdrew from the country in May 2000, according to LMAC, while dropping about 4 million cluster bombs over southern Lebanon during the 2006 war, a quarter of which did not detonate and continue to maim and kill people.
In April, Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf announced that $5 million had been allocated to cluster bomb and land mine awareness programs for the next five years. Mines are also of concern here in the UNIFIL area of operations. Some are located in close proximity to U.N. positions, and dealing with their silent threat is a daily reality for both peacekeepers and the communities they live and work amongst.
UNIFIL de-mining and EOD experts are from Cambodia, France, Italy. There are such experts also from Ghana, Malaysia and South Korea but they are responsible for clearing explosive remnants of war (ERWs) only within their camp vicinity. They also regularly conduct activities aimed at raising public awareness to the dangers of explosive remnants of war to other troop contributing countries (TCCs) within the mission. Mine clearance teams are supported by UNMAS, whose regional official is in Naqoura.
Calls have been made for Israel to give Lebanon maps in order to locate mines embedded in the south. Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter called on the U.N. to press the matter a few weeks ago. (@OnuItalia)