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Israeli-Hezbollah war over, Lebanon faces a deadly legacy

YUHMOUR, Lebanon -- The fighting stopped two weeks ago, but it's still too dangerous for Abdullah Ziaeddine to move back into his war-blasted home, much less start to rebuild.

Like hundreds of fields, houses and roads across Lebanon, his yard is littered with unexploded bomblets from an Israeli cluster bomb attack that spewed the small and deadly metal canisters. One step in the wrong place risks injury, loss of a limb -- or death.

The fist-sized bomblets, leftovers from the Israeli military fight with Hezbollah guerrillas, have killed 13 people and wounded 48 in Lebanon since the Aug. 14 truce, said Dalya Farran, spokeswoman for the UN Mine Action Coordination Center here.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday lambasted Israel for using the bombs during the war. ``Those kinds of weapons shouldn't be used in civilian and populated areas . . . and [we need to] move very quickly to disarm them," Annan said in Jordan .

Israel said it used its weapons legally. During the 34-day war, Israel used cluster bombs to attack Hezbollah fighters who often took up positions in village streets and residential neighborhoods in southern Lebanon to launch rockets at Israel.

``Israel does not break any international laws in the type of armaments it uses," government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said yesterday. ``Their use conforms with international standards."

No international treaties or laws specifically forbid the use of cluster bombs, but the Geneva Conventions outline rules to protect civilians during conflict. Because cluster bombs often maim civilians after fighting ends, their use by Israel against targets in Lebanese cities and towns has been criticized by human rights groups.

The US State Department's Office of Defense Trade Controls is investigating whether Israel inappropriately used US-made cluster bombs in civilian areas during the conflict, which began after Hezbollah guerrillas raided an Israeli Army outpost July 12, captured two soldiers, and killed others.

More than 400 cluster bomb sites have been found so far in Lebanon, and survey teams are finding dozens more every day, Farran said. The bomblets -- small metallic spheres or black and gray cylinders -- are about as big and powerful as a grenade.

``I don't walk around here anymore," Ziaeddine said, pointing to a half dozen bomblets that failed to explode on impact, lying atop dirt in his yard. Bomblets that did work tore at least a dozen small holes through Ziaeddine's roof and the walls of a villa.

The 36-year-old businessman is staying at a relative's home on the edge of town with his wife and 2-year-old son, waiting for a bomb squad to sweep his property -- something that could take weeks or months.

The UN estimates around 250,000 people cannot move back to their homes because they were either leveled during fighting or because missile warheads, artillery shells, and cluster bomblets sit unexploded around them.

When the bombs started to fall on Yuhmour, a Shi'ite village in foothills about 10 miles from the Israeli border, most of the residents fled.

It was not clear if Hezbollah fighters used the village as a base during the fighting, but the vast majority of Shi'ites in Lebanon support the guerrilla fighters.

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