Press release, Amsterdam, 12th October, 2006
Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions used in Lebanon?
During and after the 33-days war in Lebanon the story was rumoured that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) should have used DU antitank shells or other types of munitions made from DU. The attention was especially focussed on the article "Scientists suspect Israeli arms used in South contain radioactive matter" by Mohammed Zaatari in the Daily Star (August 21, 2006) in which nuclear physicist Dr. Ali Kobeissi, a member of the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research said that a crater caused by an Israeli munition in Khiam contained "a high degree of unidentified radioactive materials."
Many people within the movement against uranium weapons considered Kobeissi's statements as a "piece of evidence" for the alleged use of DU by the IDF.
In order to verify or to falsify the assertions that DU has been used, Henk van der Keur from the Laka Foundation brought a visit to Lebanon as part of a delegation from the Amsterdam based organisation Dromen, Denk, Durven, Doen (Dreaming, Thinking, to Dare, to Do), among others working on human rights issues and questions on the Middle East.
On September 25 Van der keur visited Dr. Kobeissi in Nabatiyeh. Dr. Kobeissi told that he tested some deep pits made by Israeli weapons with a geiger counter from a local scrap dealer and that his results indicated the presence of uranium. He stressed that he has never said 'depleted uranium' and regretted the political bickerings between different sects. He measured 50 nanosievert (nSv) per hour in the outside rim of the pits and 300 nSv in the heart of most pits with the exception of one which measured 800 nsV/h. He also declared that these dose rates in the pits decreased considerably day by day. On the suggestion that these higher measures could be due to the concentration of uranium in the ash ('concentrated background radiation from the burnt material') he agreed that this possibility is highly likely.
At his home Kobeissi had collected tens of samples from shrapnel and soil from more than 50 different places. None of these samples measured a higher radiation dose rate than the background radiation dose rate. The samples were measured with a calibrated geiger counter from Laka Foundation.
Finally there is no reason to assume that the IDF has used DU antitank shells. Firstly there were no armored targets in Lebanon and secondly the Mine clearance teams - present on many places in the south of Lebanon, especially because of the enormous abundance of cluster bombs - haven't found any spent DU antitank shells.
According to Peter Boeckhart, who is in charge for making reports in post-conflict areas for Human Rights Watch, only a few bunker busters have been used in Lebanon (on bridges), but he couldn't tell where. No chance that these munitions were equiped with a load of DU. Instead of bunker buster types of munitions Boeckhart said that the use of serial bombing was much more seen. A mosque in Beirut was bombed with a load of more than 20 tons by serial bombing.
In short, there is no reason to believe that DU weaponry has been used by Israel during the July/August 2006 war.
Henk van der Keur