The Serbs say the NATO bombing has taken a heavy toll on civilian lives. Yugoslav media report NATO attacks killed 50 civilians and wounded some 50 others. The Serbs claim allied aircraft dropped eight cluster bombs on a village about 40 miles southwest of Kosovo’s capital Pristina. Reports say the wounded were mostly women, children and the elderly. NATO today said it had conducted its heaviest bombing of the campaign but hasn’t been able to confirm any civilian casualties.
Human Rights Watch sent a letter yesterday to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana expressing concern at the mounting civilian casualties in NATO’s war against Yugoslavia. In particular, Human Rights Watch raised serious concerns about whether NATO is targeting civilians or objects that, if attacked, would cause disproportionate harm to civilians. It also questioned whether, even in attacking legitimate military targets, NATO is taking all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians. Among recent incidents giving rise to these concerns are the destruction of factories and other property belonging to political supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, attacks on Yugoslavia’s electrical transformers and the destruction of several of Yugoslavia’s television and radio stations, as well as the May 7 bombing of the civilian hospital in Nis and the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.
As debate intensifies over the use of depleted uranium weapons in the Balkans conflict, a former Pentagon adviser has come out against them. Dr. Doug Rokke, a health physicist who led the cleanup of depleted uranium immediately after the Gulf War, believes Pentagon officials have made “a political decision and are totally unwilling to recognize that there are health consequences,” the use of DU. Dr. Rokke says the force of the impact of a depleted uranium round converts much of it into a spray of burning uranium dust. Anyone who’s inhaled or ingested the dust or who has let it enter a wound requires immediate medical treatment.
Russia condemned the United States and Britain today for killing civilians in the bomb attack on northern Iraq, saying it was proof that the West does not respect international human rights. Twelve people were killed and others wounded when Western warplanes bombed civilian targets in the city of Mosul on Wednesday. U.S. and British planes patrol the U.S.-British-Turkey-imposed no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. The Russian Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying, “The number of civilian victims is growing, and there’s an ongoing, systematic destruction of Iraq’s economic infrastructure. The world ought to know about this traumatic situation in Iraq.”
The new Roman Catholic archbishop of San Juan has criticized the U.S. Navy’s bombing of a Puerto Rican island. Roberto González Nieves, who this month replaced Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez as head of the church’s operations in the Puerto Rican capital, said he supported protesters who are trying to end 58 years of military exercises on the island of Vieques. González Nieves said, “After so many years of military exercises, it seems to me it’s time already to give the people of Vieques a new chapter of peace and tranquility.” Church leaders and politicians are calling for an end to military exercises on the island following the April 19 death of a civilian security guard when a bomb fell off target. Since then, protesters have camped out in the military training ground to demand the Navy relinquish its control of 70% of the 4-by-20-mile island. The Navy says it intends to give up 830 acres of unused land but has not said when.
A day after Senate Republicans defeated a Democratic proposal to require background checks on buyers at gun shows, they turned around and advocated a measure of their own that they say would do precisely that — a startling reversal that reflected their skittishness about being portrayed as soft on guns. The legislative fate of the Republicans’ surprise proposal was undecided as of last night, but the very fact that it had been introduced demonstrated the potency of the gun control issue.
A Senate panel rejected appeals by the Pentagon’s civilian and military leaders for more base closures, voting 11 to 9 yesterday to defeat a proposal that would have authorized a new round of closings in the year 2001.