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Israel admits dropping cluster bombs on Lebanon

Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent

Retrieved from the Australian News on November 22, 2006

 The Israeli military has admitted for the first time that it used cluster bombs on civilian

 areas of southern Lebanon during the war with Hezbollah.

 The admission comes as debate rages within the Jewish state over the widespread use of the

 controversial munitions, and claims that they might have been used contrary to orders.

 "The use of cluster munitions against built-up areas was done only against military targets where rocket

 launches against Israel were identified and after taking steps to warn the civilian population," the Israeli

 Defence Force said in a statement.

 With two IDF inquiries in progress, Amnesty International yesterday accused Israel of violating

 international law by using the cluster bombs, which have left southern Lebanon littered with an estimated

 one million-plus small but deadly bombs.

 Amnesty said the Israeli forces had left a "lethal legacy which continues to blight civilian lives".

 Lebanon has reported 24 civilians killed and 76 injured by cluster bombs since the end of the war, with

 the shells exploding as people passed by.

 Many of the fatalities occurred in orchards and olive groves that were being harvested.

 Amnesty International had previously levelled similar charges against the Hezbollah guerillas for firing

 rockets filled with ball-bearings into civilian areas of Israel .

 The UN and the Lebanese military have accused Israel of bombarding southern Lebanon with hundreds

 of thousands of cluster bombs during the last 72 hours of the war, which ended in mid-August.

 Demining teams have since removed more than 100,000 unexploded devices from villages and fields in

 the south.

 Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz said he had ordered an extensive inquiry into the use of the cluster

 bombs before the end of the war.

 Israel's besieged military chief, Dan Halutz, has claimed he did not order some of the cluster bombing


 Cluster bombs are fired from rocket platforms, and each contain as many as several hundred small

 bombs, which are meant to disperse over an area of hundreds of square metres, exploding as they hit

 the ground.

 However, the UN estimates that up to 40 per cent of the shells fired may have dispersed bomblets that

 did not explode immediately but could be activated by noise or vibrations.

 The claims are centred on areas north of the Litani River, which during the war was the defacto boundary

 between north and south Lebanon.

 Areas to the north were largely determined to be outside Hezbollah control, with the exception of several

 small towns and the Bekaa Valley, east of Beirut.

 General Halutz on Monday commissioned another inquiry to assess the use of the bombs and to examine

 if Israeli military commanders disobeyed his orders.

 "One of the things that must be investigated is the way in which the orders were given

 and implemented," he said.

 "Were the orders explicit? I believe they were."

 General Halutz has flagged courts-martial for any senior officers found to have contravened his direction.

 Early inquiries have found evidence some orders were disobeyed.

 Demining teams from the UN and four European non-government organizations are working in southern

 Lebanon to clear the unexploded bombs.

 The US is also providing help to the Lebanese military, and peacekeepers from the multi-national

 taskforce sent to enforce the ceasefire are providing munitions experts.