“What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs,”

Israeli commander: “We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon”

“What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs,” the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.
Full story at Meron Rappaport in Haaretz

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.

In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war.

The rocket unit commander stated that Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) platforms were heavily used in spite of the fact that they were known to be highly inaccurate.

The use of such weaponry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy and ability to wreak great havoc against indeterminate targets over large areas of territory, with a margin of error of as much as 1,200 meters from the intended target to the area hit.

…When his reserve duty came to a close, the commander in question sent a letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz outlining the use of cluster munitions, a letter which has remained unanswered.

http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2059&Itemid=404

Cluster Bombs Attacked by Victims

Countries affected by cluster bombs most recently used in Lebanon met in Belgrade Tuesday for an international conference to push for a ban on the lethal weapons.
The first meeting to bring together most countries affected by cluster bombs aims at ensuring that a new treaty will include victims’ concerns.

“The rights and needs of victims of cluster munitions must be at the heart of the new international treaty to ban these weapons,” said Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), at the opening of the three-day conference in the Serbian capital.

Cluster bombs — which can scatter several hundred unexploded sub-munitions over areas the size of four football fields in one shot — cause “havoc, death and injury long after conflicts,” Nash told reporters.

“They are the conventional weapon that stands out as the most in need of new rules.”

He pointed to the extensive civilian deaths and injuries inflicted in conflicts where such bombs have been used.

Twenty three of the 26 countries where cluster bombs are known to have been used were present at the conference. They have also been used in five other regions.

The bombs were most recently used during Israel’s war with Hizbullah in Lebanon last year, in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2001-2002.

The conference was initiated by the government of Serbia, itself still affected by cluster bombs dropped during NATO’s 1999 air war against the regime of late president Slobodan Milsevic over Kosovo.

“We know what it means to live through cluster bomb attacks and the consequences of unexploded sub-munitions,” said Branislav Kapetanovic, a Serbian clearance expert who lost both legs and arms while working in 2000.

“We want our governments to take the lead in the ban process to prevent other countries, and other innocent people, from suffering what we have suffered,” he said in a statement.

The Belgrade gathering is part of the so-called Oslo Process launched in the Norwegian capital in February 2006 and aims at concluding a treaty by next year.

The process aims at banning the weapon, and placing obligations on states to support victims, clear up ordnance left over from conflicts and destroy weapon stockpiles.

China, Russia and the United States, the largest manufacturers of cluster bombs, oppose the ban.

“Fortunately, a growing number of governments have realized that this problem needs a solution and that this solution needs to happen now,” Nash said, adding that 81 nations have now backed the CMC initiative.(AFP-Naharnet)

 
Beirut, 02 Oct 07, 19:22

Israelis airdrop an occupation

Simba Russeau, Electronic Lebanon, Aug 20, 2007

Near the border with Lebanon and Israel, a Lebanese wheat farmer struggles to harvest his crops since Israel fired cluster bombs throughout southern Lebanon during the end of last summer’s war, June 2007. (George Haddad)

BEIRUT, 17 August (IPS) – With an estimated one million unexploded land ordnances meaning lack of access to their lands, many farmers in southern Lebanon see cluster bombs as an Israeli “occupation.”

An estimated 25 percent of cultivated land is now inaccessible in the south. Last summer, Israel pounded Lebanon with over four million cluster bombs and artillery shells that destroyed villages, displaced thousands and wrecked more than 70 percent of the southern economy. Financial losses to the livestock sector alone were estimated at nearly 22 million dollars.

“In the village of Aita al-Shaab (on the border between Lebanon and Israel) there were three farms where all the animals died not just because of the destruction but also because after the villagers left they were without food or water,” says Saada Allaw, a reporter with the Arabic language Lebanese newspaper As-Safir.

Most farmers in the south are small holders who produce primarily for their own consumption and for local trade. More than a third of their income has been lost due to cluster bombs.

“After the war ended we were not allowed to enter our fields until they cleared all the cluster bombs. They found 75 cluster bombs here,” says Rima, a local farmer from the southern town Adloun.

“Usually we make 1,000-1,300 [US] dollars per year from fresh thyme. But this year we missed the planting season.”

Cluster bombs are air or ground launched canisters holding up to 650 bomblets, which often fail to explode on impact. Designed for use against military targets, they sink into the ground or lie on the surface and become virtual landmines. Bomblets hide in tall grasses and in branches of trees and wash down hills after rains to areas already cleared.

“Destroying agriculture is an especially important tactic because farming connects people to the land. Land is the source of livelihood, but it is also where local habits, customs and culture are rooted,” says Rami Zurayk, professor of ecosystem management at the American University of Beirut.

Following international outrage over Israel’s use of cluster bombs during its military campaign, the US Appropriations Committee approved a measure in June, sponsored by Democratic senators Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein, restricting the sale or transfer of cluster bombs.

According to the bill no military funds will be used for such bombs unless the cluster bombs have a failure rate of one percent or less; and the sale or transfer agreement specifies that the cluster bombs will be used only against clearly defined military targets and not where civilians are known to be present.

“Cluster bombs were used during the last 72 hours of Israel’s military operations because they thought it was the way to destroy Hizballah, but in fact they destroyed the villages, people’s lives and their living resources,” says Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The US is a major supplier of cluster munitions to Israel,” Whitson said. The bombs had been dropped despite an agreement “that bars Israel from using cluster sub-munitions in civilian populated areas.”

Tobacco drying in the sun on a farm in southern Lebanon. Since the last year’s war tobacco is the only product subsidized by the Lebanese government, June 2007. (George Haddad)

Nearly 90 percent of the economy of Aita al-Shaab is based on tobacco farming. “I live from the tobacco harvest,” says a local woman who did not give her name. “We’re still waiting for them to check for cluster bombs, which means I can’t plant, so there won’t be any harvest this year.”

Many farmers expressed outrage over the government’s lack of compensation. Most are indebted after losing their harvest, and do not know what will happen if they are unable to repay their loans. After last year’s war the government offered millions of dollars in loans to tobacco farmers, the only crop the government subsidizes.

“During the last war, the government didn’t offer any economic encouragement for the small businesses, and especially in the villages,” says political analyst Rafi Madayan.

“The Lebanese government should participate with the UN in creating development programs in the villages to provide more assistance to the agricultural sector.”

Earlier this month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced a 3.3 million [US] dollar program to aid southern farmers in improving productivity by focusing on the horticulture and livestock sectors.

“Livestock keepers who lost their animals will be helped to re-stock, while measures will be taken to improve productivity in affected areas,” the FAO said in a statement.

Southern Lebanon is home to some of the country’s poorest. The memory of occupation is strong among the mainly Shia population here.

Israel used cluster munitions in Lebanon during the 1980s. At that time, the United States placed restrictions on their use and then a moratorium on the transfer of cluster munitions to Israel out of concern for civilian casualties. Those weapons used more than two decades ago continue to affect farmers.

“People did not have free access to their land in 1982-2000 during Israeli occupation, and a lot of the area was mined and even till this day the Israelis have refused to turn in the maps of the areas they mined after they withdrew.”

Cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnances have killed at least 30 people and wounded 209 since the 14 August 2006 cessation of hostilities.

Cluster Bombs: A Weapon out of Control – Human Rights Watch

Short film documenting the lethal effects of the use of cluster munitions worldwide, with commentary, new statistics and analysis from military experts at Human Rights Watch. Footage shows how cluster munitions have endangered civilian populations from the Vietnam era through current conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon. During the last THREE DAYS of the War on Lebanon, Israel fired up to 4,000,000 cluster bomblets according to UN estimates – twice the amount used by the US in the attack on Iraq in 2003.

Israeli cluster bomb slays Lebanese woman

TYRE, Lebanon: A Lebanese woman was badly wounded in the South of the country on Friday in the explosion of a cluster bomblet dropped by Israeli forces during last summer’s war, police said. The woman, Abdeh Mohammad Khanafer, 70, was gathering herbs in a field at Aynata village near Bint Jbeil, six kilometers from the Israeli border, when she touched a bomblet that detonated, they said.She was badly wounded in the face, arms and torso and was rushed to hospital in the port town of Tyre, 80 kilometres south of Beirut. According to the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center, more than 222 people have fallen prey to cluster bomblets in the past six months. Of the victims, 190 have been civilian.

At least 27 people have been killed by them since the conflict ended on August 14, 2006, according to an AFP tally.

The munitions dropped by Israel during its devastating air war against Lebanon included more than a million cluster bomblets, around 40 percent of which failed to detonate on impact, according to the UN.

Cluster munitions spread bomblets over a wide area from a single container.

The bomblets often do not explode on impact, but can do so later at the slightest touch, making them as deadly as anti-personnel landmines. – AFP

Source

Pledge to seek cluster bomb ban

Cluster bombs

US forces have used cluster bombs in Afghanistan

Forty-six nations, including the UK, have pledged to work towards a new treaty banning cluster bombs.At the end of a two-day conference in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, the countries signed a declaration committing themselves to a ban.

They aim to prohibit by 2008 the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

The US has rejected any ban, saying the weapons have a place in its arsenal.

Negotiations toward a ban will now take place in a series of meetings over the next year.

They will be held in Peru, Austria and Ireland.

‘UK leadership’

“We are now ready to move ahead towards an international ban on cluster munitions,” said Norway’s foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

Campaigners had feared the UK, which has used cluster munitions in Kosovo and Iraq, would step back from committing itself to a new treaty by 2008.

Cluster bomb bomblet in Iraq - file photo

Cluster bombs spread many explosive bomblets over a wide area

“The UK, which has used so many cluster bombs in the past, showed real leadership and agreed to join a fast-track process to negotiate a ban on cluster bombs that cause unacceptable harm to civilians,” said Simon Conway, director of the lobby group Landmine Action.

Japan, Romania and Poland refused to sign up to the Oslo declaration. But key nations such as the United States, Russia and China did not attend the conference.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “We… take the position that these munitions do have a place and a use in military inventories, given the right technology as well as the proper rules of engagement”.

He said the US military had made technical improvements to its own cluster bombs and looked closely at how they were used.

‘Inhumane’

Norway launched an initiative to push for a ban on cluster bombs last November, after some signatories to the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) blocked a proposal to open negotiations to include the weapons.

The convention seeks to protect military troops from inhumane injuries and prevent civilians from accidentally being wounded or killed by certain types of arms.

Anti-cluster bomb campaigners claim they endanger civilians because they spread sub-munitions or “bomblets” over a wide area, increasing the risk of civilian casualties.

The charity Handicap International estimates that 98% of those killed and injured by the weapons are non-combatants.

They also say cluster bombs leave a large number of unexploded “duds” which continue to kill and maim long after a conflict has ended. But some military chiefs argue that cluster bombs are highly effective weapons, particularly for attacking moving targets.

They claim banning them would put troops at a disadvantage on the battlefield and would require the use of alternative weapons which are likely to cause far more collateral damage.

Campaigners say the Oslo conference marks a crucial first step towards bringing about an international ban on cluster bombs.

They say it would stigmatise the weapons and put moral pressure on countries which do not sign up not to use them, as the Ottawa treaty outlawing the use of anti-personnel landmines has done.

But without the support of key powers such as the US, Russia and China, says the BBC’s Stuart Hughes, the credibility of any new treaty remains open to debate.

Chomsky: attack on Iran and the Lebanese deadlock

The following is an extract from a Chomsky interview.  I recommend reading the full text which can be found here – http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/3999

Shank: How is the political deadlock in Lebanon impacting the U.S. government’s decision to potentially go to war with Iran? Is there a relationship at all?

Chomsky: There’s a relationship. I presume part of the reason for the U.S.-Israel invasion of Lebanon in July—and it is US-Israeli, the Lebanese are correct in calling it that—part of the reason I suppose was that Hezbollah is considered a deterrent to a potential U.S.-Israeli attack on Iran. It had a deterrent capacity, i.e. rockets. And the goal I presume was to wipe out the deterrent so as to free up the United States and Israel for an eventual attack on Iran. That’s at least part of the reason. The official reason given for the invasion can’t be taken seriously for a moment. That’s the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of a couple others. For decades Israel has been capturing, and kidnapping Lebanese and Palestinian refugees on the high seas, from Cyprus to Lebanon, killing them in Lebanon, bringing them to Israel, holding them as hostages. It’s been going on for decades, has anybody called for an invasion of Israel?

Of course Israel doesn’t want any competition in the region. But there’s no principled basis for the massive attack on Lebanon, which was horrendous. In fact, one of the last acts of the U.S.-Israeli invasion, right after the ceasefire was announced before it was implemented, was to saturate much of the south with cluster bombs. There’s no military purpose for that, the war was over, the ceasefire was coming.

UN de-mining groups that are working there say that the scale is unprecedented. It’s much worse than any other place they’ve worked: Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, anywhere. There are supposed to be about one million bomblets left there. A large percentage of them don’t explode until you pick them up, a child picks them up, or a farmer hits it with a hoe or something. So what it does basically is make the south uninhabitable until the mining teams, for which the United States and Israel don’t contribute, clean it up. This is arable land. It means that farmers can’t go back; it means that it may undermine a potential Hezbollah deterrent. They apparently have pretty much withdrawn from the south, according to the UN.

You can’t mention Hezbollah in the U.S. media without putting in the context of “Iranian-supported Hezbollah.” That’s its name. Its name is Iranian-supported Hezbollah. It gets Iranian support. But you can mention Israel without saying US-supported Israel. So this is more tacit propaganda. The idea that Hezbollah is acting as an agent of Iran is very dubious. It’s not accepted by specialists on Iran or specialists on Hezbollah. But it’s the party line. Or sometimes you can put in Syria, i.e. “Syrian-supported Hezbollah,” but since Syria is of less interest now you have to emphasize Iranian support.