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Army to investigate use of cluster bombs on civilian areas

Skina, 9, being treated for injuries from a cluster bomb that exploded while she and her cousins were playing with it, Aita Shaab, Lebanon, 20 August 2006. The July 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict killed more than 1,500 people and displaced about 900,000 Leb
(Dina Debbas/UNICEF)

Israel will probe its use of cluster bombs in the 34-day war with the armed wing of the Lebanese political party Hezbollah after an initial inquiry found the deadly munitions were fired into civilian areas of southern Lebanon against orders, the Israeli military has said.

So far, 23 Lebanese civilians have been killed by unexploded cluster bomblets in Lebanon since the 14 August ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, including seven children aged under 18, according to the UN’s Mine Action Co-ordination Centre in South Lebanon. In addition to deaths, some 136 Lebanese have been injured, including 49 children, mostly by cluster bombs.

Until this week, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) had insisted that its use of cluster weapons had been in line with international law. However, under the terms of the Geneva Convention, armies must avoid using weapons that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.

“Prior to firing cluster munitions warnings were given to the civilian population. Firing of cluster munitions was directed at legitimate military targets which had been identified as sites from which Katyusha rockets were being launched at Israel,” said the IDF in a statement.

Brigadier-General Michel Ben-Baruch, who was asked to look at Israel’s use of cluster bombs, found that in some cases the munitions were used against the orders of Israel's military Chief-of-Staff, Dan Halutz. A full probe has now been ordered.

According to the UN, the vast majority of cluster bombs were fired by Israeli troops during the last 72 hours of the conflict, when both sides had already agreed on a ceasefire. About a million of these lethal munitions may be scattered across the villages and farmland of south Lebanon, effectively becoming mines that could explode when touched by curious children or stepped on by farmers.

Each cluster rocket contains up to 650 bomblets, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – and in Lebanon, up to 40 per cent of these are thought to have failed to explode. The cluster bombs used by Israel were mainly from old stocks of American-made bombs, according to an established human rights body, Amnesty International.

The cluster bombs used by Israel were mainly from old stocks of American-made bombs, according to Amnesty International.

UN teams have cleared more than 58,000 cluster bomblets and surveyed 85 per cent of southern Lebanon, identifying 813 locations where it believed the munitions have fallen. But the
UN said that the entire clean-up operation could take as long as 15 months, with mine clearing teams having to search 196,000 square metres of area for each cluster bomb strike.

Earlier this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross called for unstable cluster bomb types to be outlawed completely, and for the firing of cluster weapons against military targets in areas populated by civilian to be banned.

Read more stories about cluster bombs:

Cluster bombs threaten farmers’ lives, hamper olive harvest
Southerners live in fear of one million cluster bombs
Agencies and others tackle cluster bomb threat

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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