08/18/2006, 00.00
LEBANON – ISRAEL
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Lebanon suffers more damages in the 34-day conflict than in previous wars

More than a thousand people were killed and more than a million displaced. More than 600 roads and 145 bridges were destroyed, tearing the country to pieces. More than 15,000 tonnes of oil have leaked into the Mediterranean creating an unprecedented threat to the entire sea.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The 34-day conflict in Lebanon has had a high cost in human lives with some 1,300 dead and over a million displaced. The war has also taken a heavy toll on the region's economy and environment, something which will take years to fix.

The death toll is grim. Official figures indicate that 1,084 civilians were killed in Lebanon (one third children) plus 40 police officers or military, 61 Hezbollah militants, 7 Amal militants and one member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Four UN observers and a member of the UN peacekeeping force were also killed.

The Israeli military has claimed to have killed more than 530 Hezbollah fighters, destroyed 309 short-range rocket launchers, more than 1,800 buildings used by Hezbollah and 33 Hezbollah-built tunnels. Israel lost 117 soldiers and 41 civilians (including 16 Israeli Arabs), with at least 312 soldiers and 583 civilians wounded.

More than 4,000 rockets hit Israel and anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 Israelis had to flee their homes. The overall cost of damage to economy is estimated at US$ 1.6 billion dollars

Lebanon was hit by more than 100,000 artillery rounds and 12,000 air strikes. About 3,700 people were wounded, 973,334 were displaced with 220,000 fleeing the country.

In material terms, Lebanon lost 145 bridges and overpasses, 32 gas stations, 7,000 houses and apartments and 29 service points such as air/sea ports and water/power plants damaged or destroyed. Total bill for the damage is estimated at US$ 6 billion dollars.

According to Fadl Shalak head of Lebanon State Council for Development and Reconstruction, damages include US$ 2 billion for buildings and 1.5 billion for infrastructure (bridges, roads, and power plants), not to mention indirect losses to business, industry and tourism.

"This is a huge loss for a small country like Lebanon [. . .]. What happened is catastrophic. I have seen all the wars in Lebanon and never seen anything like this," he said.

The priority now is to clear the rubble from the streets and residential areas and rebuild the bridges because the country's regions are still cut off from one other. And, he added, rebuilding will need the consensus of the country's various and religious forces.

Israeli air raids on a Lebanese power plant caused a major oil spill in the Mediterranean that could rival the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster that despoiled the Alaskan coast.

Armed only with shovels and plastic buckets, dozens of volunteers are now struggling to scrape oil-stained sand off a Beirut beach before it spreads any further.

Nearly 15,000 tons of leaked oil from the Jiyyeh electric plant, bombed by Israel, has polluted some 140 kilometres (90 miles) of the Lebanese coast and moved north into Syrian waters, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Officials from the United Nations, the European Union and a maritime organization met yesterday in Greece to map out a strategy for containing the massive oil spill.

For Wael Hmaidan, from the Lebanese environmental group Green Line, this "is the biggest environmental disaster in the Mediterranean basin".

In Beirut the black slick covers Ramlet el-Bayda beach dozens of meters inland and has reached nearly a half-meter into the beach. It has killed fish and plants and blackened the stone breakwaters.

According to Green Line's Nina Jamal, it "will be no less than six years before it gets back to normal".

And for Greenpeace's communications officer Basma Badran, this "is definitely one of the most catastrophic environmental problems that the Lebanon coast has seen". (PB)

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