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Sunday, October 29, 2006

IDF denies Independent report that Israel used uranium bombs in Lebanon

Today's London Daily Independent in an article by anti-Israel columnist Robert Fisk, claims that Israel used bombs that were laced with uranium in Lebanon this past summer:
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.

Enriched uranium is produced from natural uranium ore and is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. A waste productof the enrichment process is depleted uranium, it is an extremely hard metal used in anti-tank missiles for penetrating armour. Depleted uranium is less radioactive than natural uranium, which is less radioactive than enriched uranium.
But if Fisk is correct - even as he himself points out - Israel would have been crazy to use these types of weapons:
"When a uranium penetrator hits a hard target, the particles of the explosion are very long-lived in the environment," Dr Busby said yesterday. "They spread over long distances. They can be inhaled into the lungs. The military really seem to believe that this stuff is not as dangerous as it is." Yet why would Israel use such a weapon when its targets - in the case of Khiam, for example - were only two miles from the Israeli border? The dust ignited by DU munitions can be blown across international borders, just as the chlorine gas used in attacks by both sides in the First World War often blew back on its perpetrators.
There's an accompanying article in the Independent by Chris Bellamy, professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University. Bellamy notes the following:
The initial tests on samples taken from the site of the Israeli strike on Khiam present an enigma which will only be solved when the people who produced and deployed the weapon explain themselves. Speculation that the device was some form of "dirty bomb" or micro-yield nuclear weapon can probably be dismissed. The radiation levels and the amount of Uranium-235 in the sample clearly indicate that it was not a nuclear fission weapon.


The Khiam sample, with 108 parts U-238 to one of U-235 - just under one per cent - is clearly enriched - but not much. So, in the absence of any palpable military advantage, in terms of its mass and its ability to generate heat and fire compared with DU or natural uranium, why was this enigmatic material used? There are several possibilities. The first is that there was a simple mistake - that uranium with an elevated U-235 content was used instead of DU or natural uranium. The Khiam sample was very small - 25 grams. Contamination with soil could easily obscure a higher degree of enrichment. Spent nuclear fuel - after the power has been generated - typically contains 2.5 per cent U-235, but it can be as low as 1.5 per cent - close to the Khiam sample level. So the uranium in the Khiam projectile could just have been spent nuclear fuel.

One way to dispose of enriched uranium safely is to blend it with natural uranium, in such a way that the U-235 is extremely difficult to re-extract. That might well produce a substance with just under one per cent U-235, which was a component of the Israeli Khiam bomb.

It is also uncertain whether the munition was made in the US or by the Israelis themselves. If the Israelis or the Americans want to avoid accusations, at the very least, of a cavalier attitude to the use of nuclear waste products, they need to explain what was in that bomb and why it was there.
Haaretz is reporting this evening that the IDF is denying that it used any uranium-based ammunition during the war.
Israel did not use uranium-based warheads during the Lebanon war, the army spokesperson's office said Saturday. The announcement was made in response to a report published Saturday on the website of the British newspaper The Independent.
You will note, if you go to the Independent's site, that it is carrying a denial from the Foreign Ministry, which is much less explicit than the IDF's denial.
Boutros al-Harb, director of the United Nations Environment Program for Asia and the Middle East said Saturday that his organization is unable to confirm or deny the report.

"If uranium was used, we will find out and will announce it," he said. "We cannot confirm anything now, but we will wait for the results."

Twenty experts within the organization examined in recent weeks the environmental effects of the Lebanon war, and will release their results in mid-December, al-Harb said.


An Italian television report aired last week made a similar claim, raising the possibility that Israel had used a weapon in the Gaza Strip in recent months, causing especially serious physical injuries, such as amputated limbs and severe burns.

The report claimed the weapon is similar to one developed by the U.S. military, known as DIME, which causes a powerful and lethal blast, but only within a relatively small radius.

The Italian report is based on the eyewitness accounts of medical doctors in the Strip, as well as tests carried out in an Italian laboratory. The investigative team is the same one that exposed, several months ago, the use by U.S. forces in Iraq of phosphorous bombs, against Iraqi rebels in Faluja.

Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen (res.) Yitzhak Ben-Israel, formerly head of the IDF's weapons-development program, told the Italian reporters that "one of the ideas [behind the weapon] is to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons."
This is Israel's major problem: the terrorists hide among a civilian population. If the IDF uses simple weapons, Israel is castigated in the world media for causing civilian casualties. So the IDF is (apparently) using more specialized weaponry to minimize the civilian casualties while still getting the terrorists. It seems to me that the world ought to be applauding. But of course, since we're Israel, they won't applaud.
The Italian investigative team raised the possibility that the IDF is making use of a weapon similar in character to DIME - Dense Inert Metal Explosive - developed for the U.S. military. According to the official website of a U.S. air force laboratory, it is a "focused lethality" weapon, which aims to accurately destroy the target while causing minimum damage to the surrounding.

According to the site, the projectile comprises a carbon-fiber casing filled with tungsten powder and explosives. In the explosion, tungsten particles - a metal capable of conducting very high temperatures - spread over a radius of four meters and cause death.

According to the U.S.-based website Defense-Tech, "the result is an incredibly destructive blast in a small area" and "the destructive power of the mixture causes far more damage than pure explosive." It adds that "the impact of the micro-shrapnel seems to cause a similar but more powerful effect than a shockwave."

The weapon is supposed to still be in the testing phase and has not been used on the battlefield.

The Italian reporters sent samples of the particles found in wounds of injured in the Gaza Strip to a laboratory at the University of Parma. Dr. Carmela Vaccaio said that in analyzing the samples, she found "a very high concentration of carbon and the presence of unusual materials," such as copper, aluminum and tungsten. Dr. Vaccaio says these findings "could be in line with the hypothesis" that the weapon in question is DIME.

On the matter of DIME, Ben-Israel told the Italian reporters that "this is a technology that allows the striking of very small targets."

The report says that the weapon is not banned by international law, especially since it has not been officially tested.

It is believed that the weapon is highly carcinogenic and harmful to the environment.
Stay tuned. I am sure we have not heard the end of this.


At 5:54 PM, Blogger Kranky (in the civilized world) said...

Carl, if an israeli farts then it will be called a poison gas attacks. If a jew sneezes he will be accused of spreading bio-warfare weapons. If he dares to defend himself against physical attacks by attacking the aggressor he will be termed an aggressor. If he dares to win, the UN will have a field day with him. If he fights to a draw, the UN won't be able to celebrate, but will happily drudge up all manner of blood libel.

I say its about time to make the crimes fit the punishment. Ratchet up the pain on the other side.


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