During the July-August 2006 war on Lebanon, the Israeli army used a wide variety of weapons and ammunition. The tremendous destruction of infrastructure, testimonies of burned bodies from hospitals and huge craters observed in bombarded areas have strengthened the assumption and belief that unusual types of weapons were used. The use of Uranium (depleted or un-depleted) loaded ammunition was one serious hypothesis that needed to be tested since Uranium is a very heavy radio-active material, toxic and extremely dangerous on health and the environment. The reason behind the suspicion is that most modern air-surface bombs contain some kind of heavy metal such as Depleted Uranium or Tungsten in their explosive heads to increase their penetration and destruction capability.
In view of the above, Green Line Association took the initiative of conducting an objective scientific investigation about the possible use of depleted Uranium (DU) and un-depleted Uranium (U) within Israel’s weaponry and assess their potential short-term and long-term effects on the environment, livelihoods and human health.
To achieve this, Green Line volunteers worked in coordination with Dr. Mohammed Kobeissi, a national expert in nuclear physics and collaborated with a few other researchers abroad.
The study “Gamma Spectroscopy of Uranium Isotopes Activity Ratios in some Lebanese Soil Samples Obtained from Craters Produced by Israeli Bombardments” was commissioned by Green Line and to Dr. Mohammed Kobeissi in cooperation with Dr. Andreas Musilek and Dr. Max Bichler will be published soon on Green Line’s website.
Soil samples, obtained from craters caused by Israeli missiles bombardment on the Lebanese villages during the 33-day war were analyzed by gamma spectroscopy for their activity ratios of U-238 to U-235. The measurements were conducted over two stages. The first one was in the Laboratory of the Radiometric Seminar of Prof. von Philipsborn in Regensburg, Germany and the second at the Atomic Institute of the Austrian University in Vienna, Austria.
The study concluded that the samples obtained from the craters do not contain depleted uranium within the precision of the available instruments used in Gamma–Spectroscopy Techniques, except for the sample taken from a crater close to the village of Khiam, where soil sample results showed possible content of DU.
In parallel to the study conducted by Green Line, other independent studies were completed and showed conflicting results.
The National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS) assessed the presence of DU in samples taken at 25 different affected sites. The results indicated no presence of DU however, the CNRS reported that their devices might not be adequate or sensitive enough to detect DU (CNRS, 2006).
Green Audit NGO in England reported results of measurements made on soil samples from bomb craters in southern Lebanon and an ambulance car air filter that was operational during the war in Beirut an the South . The analysis made by the Harwell laboratory in Oxford and in some cases by School of Oceanographic Sciences, University of Wales confirmed the existence of Enriched Uranium detected by Alpha spectrometry (Busby and Williams, Green Audit Research Note, 2006).
On the other hand, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) responded that its analysis failed to detect Uranium. In addition, the Israel Defence Force denied using DU weapons. However, further evidence of the widespread existence of Enriched Uranium in Lebanon has been reported by Chris Busby and Dai Williams in a paper accepted by the “European Journal of Biology and Bioelectromagnetics”.
The above information reveals clear contradictory results leading to no conclusive conclusion. The reason behind these might be numerous such as:
- DU is known to become aerosolic (vaporises) after the explosion and the accompanying high temperature of about 5000 °C leading to the dispersal of the particles over large areas. This might affect the amount left in the crater,
- The sampling process was taken after a relatively long period following the explosion, which might lead to a low concentration of DU in the sample,
- The analysis methodology and equipment do not allow for low detection of DU,
- Israel might have used modified versions of the weapons containing other equally dangerous heavy metals such as tungsten and these require modified detection methods.
It is worth noting that in the Balkans, experts of the UN needed about three years to determine the use of depleted uranium in the war. In Lebanon, the issue was closed only after a couple of months of work hinting to a political decision behind concluding the work that rapidly and without further in depth investigation using more reliable methods.
Based on the above, it is mandatory that the UN and the international community are requested to conduct in depth analyses and assessments regarding the use of banned weapons by Israel whether containing DU or similarly lethal heavy metals.
If this is similar to the use of white phosphorus (already confirmed), Israel and the US, which supported the war should be forced to compensate the Lebanese people for the losses and damages incurred by Israel.
Finally, and to achieve more details on this issue, additional tests using Alfa spectroscopy and other methods are being run on the samples collected by the Green Line team. These will be revealed in a separate report.