I arrived in Lebanon two years after the 2006 war but even then, the disruption and devastation caused by cluster bombs was evident to the communities in the south.
To put it into context, the Israelis pretty much got rid of their whole submunition arsenal – which was itself mainly made up of American submunitions from the Vietnam war era.
Because those weapons were so old they had a very high failure rate – meaning that they failed to go off straight away, so pose a risk to civilians long after. When it comes to munitions in a large-scale conflict the expected failure rate is between 15 and 20 per cent. But the recorded failure rate of the submunitions used by the Israelis in south Lebanon was up to 50 per cent.
It is pretty clear that Libya will be the next major job for arms-disposal engineers. I have just come back from carrying out a technical assessment in Libya's Nafusa mountain range. There is no evidence of cluster munitions used there but we know they have been used in Misrata.
We are working there now and looking to expand operations into other towns as the security situation dictates. But the main thing will be when Tripoli falls. We would expect the contamination level in Tripoli to be pretty high with booby-trapped buildings and submunitions. In an ideal world I wouldn't have a job, but unfortunately I don't think I'll be out of employment any time soon.
Jesse James, a 40-year-old bomb-disposal expert, spent 16 years with the Royal Engineers before joining the Mines Advisory Group, a charity which is involved in land-mine and cluster-munitions clearance all over the world. He worked in Lebanon – where Israeli jets dropped four million bomblets during their 2006 war with Hezbollah – and has recently returned from a field trip to LibyaReuse content