Just a small experimental nuclear device

There was very little interest in my recent article on the use by NATO of Depleted Uranium ammunition in the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Now read today's front page Independent article by award-winning journalist Robert Fisk, from which the extract below is taken, and see if you find my article any more relevant today:

Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians? Scientific evidence gathered from at 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.

Dr Busby's initial report states that there are two possible reasons for the contamination. "The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or other experimental weapon (eg, a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash ... The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium." A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium.

Asked by The Independent if the Israeli army had been using uranium-based munitions in Lebanon this summer, Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: "Israel does not use any weaponry which is not authorised by international law or international conventions." This, however, begs more questions than it answers. Much international law does not cover modern uranium weapons because they were not invented when humanitarian rules such as the Geneva Conventions were drawn up and because Western governments still refuse to believe that their use can cause long-term damage to the health of thousands of civilians living in the area of the explosions.

Which is where I came in ...

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