UN investigates Israel's 'uranium weapons'

The United Nations Environment Programme is investigating allegations, first published in The Independent, that Israel may have used uranium-based weapons during this summer's war in Lebanon. Twenty UN experts, working with Lebanese environmentalists, have spent two weeks assessing various samples. They are planning to report their findings in December.

Butros al-Harb, Unep's Middle East director, told a Lebanese radio interviewer at the weekend: "If uranium was used, we will find out and we will announce it. We cannot confirm anything now, but we will wait for results."

Yesterday Israel issued its most explicit denial yet. Major Avital Leibovitz, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defence Forces, said: "We deny using any weapons containing uranium." One official suggested that if the environmentalists had indeed found traces of uranium, they would have to look for a different explanation.

Chris Busby, the scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, based in Brussels, reported last week that two soil samples thrown up by Israeli bombs in the south Lebanese villages of Khiam and At Tiri, centres of fierce fighting between Israel and Hizbollah, showed "elevated radiation signatures". Dr Busby warned that particles from the explosions were long-lived in the environment and could be inhaled into the lungs, causing "significant" health effects on civilians.

The Harwell laboratory for mass spectrometry in Oxfordshire confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples, but the European experts were puzzled about what weapons Israel might have been using and why. Chris Bellamy, a professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University, said the initial tests "present an enigma". But he dismissed speculation that Israel was using a "dirty bomb" or micro-yield nuclear weapon.

Government officials said Israel had received no approaches from either the Unep or the European committee. Mark Regev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: "If someone comes with a complaint, comes with a charge, we will review it." But he protested that Israel was being singled out when nobody had accused it of deploying weapons banned under international law or practice. "The sort of munitions we used in the Lebanon campaign," he said, "were almost identical to the sort of weaponry used in conflicts over the past decade by Nato countries, by Western countries. Sometimes there's a feeling that the Jewish state is being singled out for special treatment. One really has to ask why it is that the finger is being pointed at Israel."

Palestinian officials have frequently accused the IDF of firing shells tipped with depleted uranium, a hard metal byproduct of uranium enrichment, in the Gaza Strip. But Israel has denied it and no conclusive evidence has been produced.

* Israel's Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, called for President Moshe Katzav to stand down for the duration of any judicial proceedings after police recommended indicting him for alleged sexual offences against women employees.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Assessor

£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...

Year 6 Teacher needed for 1 Term- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 6 larger then life teach...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering