Deminers had already been through this house once, collecting unexploded Israeli cluster bombs from the roof, front porch, and path. But they had to move on to clear other houses of potentially deadly surprises – and so left for later bombs in Umm Mazen's garden and olive grove.
But her patience broke. Looking through her children's bedroom windows, Umm Mazen could still see cluster bombs in the dirt. Five weeks of war has carpeted south Lebanon with tens of thousands of small Israeli explosives.
"Finish today! I'm not waiting any longer!" wailed Umm Mazen at one deminer, as a team from the British Mines Advisory Group (MAG) sealed off the next street to blow up several cluster bombs. Angry, frustrated, and finally collapsing into tears, she spluttered: "Buy my house! I want to leave here!"
Civilian casualties are growing from this 34-day war. By late Wednesday, Lebanese Army figures indicated eight deaths and 38 wounded from cluster bombs; the UN reported 249 cluster-bomb strike locations where dud rates have reached as high as 70 percent.
"This is the worst [cluster- bomb contamination] I have ever seen," says Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst with the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), who was chief of high-value targeting for the Pentagon during the Iraq invasion of 2003, and took part in several US military battle-damage assessments dating back to 1998.
"We're on the verge of a potential humanitarian crisis if the deminers can't get a handle on this," says Mr. Garlasco. American use of cluster bombs during the 2003 Iraq invasion was "very problematic, but it makes what happened here look like child's play."
"It's everywhere," says Magnus Rundstrom, a MAG demining team leader from Sweden, who that morning had found 75 cluster bombs in a single living room – including one nestled in a shoe inside a cupboard. He ticks off the types of submunitions his team is finding, then notes that they are "very similar. It's the same kind of death."
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