By Vic Rosenthal
The US State Department has said that Israel ‘probably’ misused cluster bombs in Lebanon last summer. The full report, sent to Congress Monday, is classified.
The confidential agreement under which Israel purchased the bombs gives conditions of their use. This has been variously stated as “they may not be used against civilians”, “they may not be used in civilian areas”, or they may only be used against “organized armies and clearly defined military targets”. Of course confidential is confidential, so we’re stuck with the interpretation of the notoriously anti-Israel State Department.
Israel used a large number of American-made cluster bombs in Lebanon against Hezbollah rocket launchers and other targets. These launchers were generally located in ‘civilian areas’ of south Lebanon from which civilians had evacuated. The problem is that some percentage of these bombs fail to explode on impact, leaving the area dangerous when civilians return.
Israel says that their use was in accordance with the agreements and in self-defense, given that Hezbollah rockets were falling on Israeli cities.
It’s interesting to note that Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets were loaded with ball bearings, making them antipersonnel weapons similar to cluster bombs. And they were fired directly at populated civilian targets, with intent to kill Israeli civilians.
Human Rights watch is demanding that the US cut off supplies of such weapons to Israel. So why didn’t they make a similar demand that Syria stop supplying Katyushas to Hezbollah?