Brian Whitaker/ Guardian Unlimited & Human Rights Watch & The Arabist – 2006-10-20 08:58:29
Hizbullah Accused of Using Cluster Bombs
Brian Whitaker/ Guardian Unlimited
LONDON (October 19, 2006) — Hizbullah was accused of firing cluster bombs into civilian areas of northern Israel in a statement by Human Rights Watch today.
The Lebanese Shia militia used two Chinese-made Type-81 rockets for cluster strikes that hit the Galilee village of Mghar on July 25, according to evidence gathered by the US-based organisation.
Although Israel made extensive use of cluster weapons against Lebanon during the last days of the conflict, this is the first independent confirmation that Hizbullah used the controversial weapons too.
Cluster weapons scatter hundreds of small “bomblets” as they land, and can cause death or injuries over a wide area.
“We are disturbed to discover that not only Israel but also Hizbullah used cluster munitions in their recent conflict, at a time when many countries are turning away from this kind of weapon precisely because of its impact on civilians,” said Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division. “Use of cluster munitions is never justified in civilian-populated areas because they are inaccurate and unreliable.”
The organisation cited statements from witnesses in Mghar, including some who had found “clearly identifiable pieces of submunitions and their casings”.
Israeli police told Human Rights Watch they had documented 113 cluster rockets fired at Israel during the conflict, causing one death and 12 injuries in all. If the police figure for the number of rockets is correct, the total number of bomblets would be about 4,400.
In Lebanon, the UN has identified at least 749 locations that it says were hit by Israeli cluster weapons, making an estimated total of 4m bomblets.
Although Hizbullah used fewer cluster bombs than Israel, Human Rights Watch says: “The new findings raise serious concerns about the proliferation of these weapons to non-state armed groups, as well as states.”
A group of countries led by Sweden is urging a worldwide ban on cluster bombs at arms talks in Geneva, but this move is opposed by Britain, as well as the US, China and Russia.
Cluster weapons have been used in most conflicts since the Vietnam war. Critics argue that they virtually guarantee civilian casualties when fired into populated areas. Many of the bomblets fail to explode initially and in effect become landmines, killing people who accidentally touch them – often long after the conflict has ended.
Twenty deaths and 115 injuries from cluster weapons have been reported in southern Lebanon since the ceasefire. Many farmers in the area have been unable to harvest or plant crops because of the danger from unexploded munitions on their land.
Hezbollah Hit Israel with Cluster Munitions During Conflict
Human Rights Watch
(Jerusalem, October 19, 2006) – Hezbollah fired cluster munitions into civilian areas in northern Israel during the recent conflict, Human Rights Watch reported today. This is the first time that Hezbollah’s use of these controversial weapons has been confirmed.
Hezbollah’s deployment of the Chinese-made Type-81 122mm rocket is also the first confirmed use of this particular model of cluster munition anywhere in the world. Human Rights Watch documented two Type-81 cluster strikes that took place on July 25 in the Galilee village of Mghar.
“We are disturbed to discover that not only Israel but also Hezbollah used cluster munitions in their recent conflict, at a time when many countries are turning away from this kind of weapon precisely because of its impact on civilians,” said Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division. “Use of cluster munitions is never justified in civilian-populated areas because they are inaccurate and unreliable.”
While it is not known when and how Hezbollah obtained these foreign-made cluster munitions, and while Hezbollah used far fewer cluster munitions than Israel did in the recent war, the new findings raise serious concerns about the proliferation of these weapons to non-state armed groups, as well as states.
Human Rights Watch has previously reported on Israel’s extensive use of cluster munitions in southern Lebanon during the conflict and has documented civilian casualties caused by these weapons both during the war and afterwards.
The UN has estimated that Israel fired as many as 4 million submunitions into Lebanon, which left as many as 1 million hazardous unexploded “duds” still threatening Lebanese civilians and disrupting economic recovery from the war. These submunition duds have caused an average of nearly three civilian casualties a day since the cease-fire.
Cluster munitions endanger civilians in two ways. First, they spread submunitions over a broad area, virtually guaranteeing civilian casualties when fired into populated areas. Second, they leave a large number of duds that become de facto landmines, killing or maiming people well after the conflict.
Each of the Type-81 cluster munition 122mm rockets used by Hezbollah carries 39 Type-90 or MZD submunitions. Each submunition in turn shoots out hundreds of steel spheres, about 3.5mm in diameter, with deadly force. Human Rights Watch discovered evidence of Hezbollah’s unprecedented use of this cluster munition in the course of ongoing investigations of the group’s attacks on northern Israel during the war that lasted from July 12 until August 14. Israeli authorities had until now prevented publication of details of Hezbollah cluster strikes in Israel, citing security concerns.
Cluster Munitions in Mghar
On July 25, 2006, between 2:15 and 2:30 p.m., according to 43-year-old Jihad Ghanem, a cluster munition landed between three homes belonging to his family in the western part of Mghar village (population 19,000). The attack injured three family members: his son Rami, 8, his brother Ziad, 35, and his sister Suha, 33. Rami’s arms bore irregular scars caused by pieces of shrapnel as well as smaller round marks that Jihad said were caused by steel spheres.
Jihad Ghanem, a factory manager, showed Human Rights Watch 3.5mm steel spheres and pieces of metal which he said landed at the scene, and were consistent with the top of Type-90 submunitions. He said he saw in his yard a canister with small weapons stacked on top of each other. This and the relatively light injuries suffered by his son suggest that the submunitions may not have deployed properly.
According to other villagers, the rocket that hit the Ghanem’s property was part of a volley of some 10 to 12 rockets that landed in or near Mghar that afternoon, one after the other. Human Rights Watch could not determine how many of the rockets in this volley contained submunitions, but witnesses said that at least one of the other rockets contained cluster submunitions. Amal Hinou, 42, who makes plate-glass products for construction, showed Human Rights Watch pieces of it that he said he collected in an open field in the Hariq area just outside of Mghar. These included several clearly identifiable pieces of submunitions and their casings.
The Type-90 submunitions are easy to identify. They resemble small cylindrical bells with a ribbon at one end. A plastic band full of 3.5mm steel spheres wraps horizontally around the middle of the cylinder. Inside is an armor-piercing “shaped charge.” The steel spheres carried by Hezbollah’s regular 122mm and 220mm rockets – that is, those that do not contain submunitions – are 6mm in diameter.
Israeli police officials told Human Rights Watch that they documented 113 cluster rockets that were fired at Israel during the conflict, causing one death and 12 injuries in all: in Mghar one death and six injuries, in Karmiel three injuries, in Kiryat Motzkin two injuries, and in Nahariya one injury. The police said they discovered the first of these rockets on July 15 in the Upper Galilee village of Safsufa. A total of 113 Type-81 cluster munition rockets would contain 4,407 individual submunitions.
Israeli police also showed Human Rights Watch physical evidence of a submunition from a Type-81 rocket that they said landed in the town of Karmiel and matched the one Human Rights Watch researchers saw in Mhgar.
Police and army officials did not disclose to Human Rights Watch the estimated dud rate of the submunitions from the 113 cluster rockets that they said they had handled.
International humanitarian law (the laws of war) obliges warring parties to distinguish between combatants and civilians (the principle of distinction) and, when attacking legitimate military targets, to ensure that the military advantage gained in the attack outweighs any possible harm caused to civilians.
Hezbollah launched cluster attacks that were at best indiscriminate, i.e., they violated the principle of distinction by using unguided and highly inaccurate cluster munition models against populated areas. At worst, Hezbollah deliberately attacked civilian areas with these weapons.
Five countries – China, Egypt, Italy, Russia, and Slovakia – produce nine types of 122mm rockets carrying submunitions. At least two other countries, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, also stockpile them.
In November 2006, the Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons will decide whether to begin work on a new international instrument addressing the problem of cluster munitions. Although these weapons have been used in recent conflicts, including Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, a growing number of nations have joined a movement to stop the use of unreliable and inaccurate cluster munitions because of the danger they pose to civilian life during and after strikes.
Cluster Bombs Used against
Civilian Populated Areas, HRW Says
Hossam el-Hamalawy / The Arabist
Israel Urged to Shun Cluster Bomb
LONDON (July 25, 2006) — US-based Human Rights Watch says Israel has used cluster bombs in civilian areas during its assault on Lebanon.
The group says an attack using the munitions on the village of Blida last week killed one person and injured 12.
It says the explosives – which disperse after impact – are “unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable”, and should not be used in populated areas.
The Israeli military says their use is legal under international law, and that it is investigating the Blida incident.
Critics say cluster bombs leave behind a large number of unexploded bomblets, which often kill long after they are fired. “Our research in Iraq and Kosovo shows that cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without huge loss of civilian life,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The group believes that the use of cluster munitions in populated areas may violate the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks contained in international humanitarian law.
“They’re not illegal per se, but certain attacks may be illegal,” Washington representative Bonnie Docherty says.
“The law of war requires you to distinguish between soldiers and civilians, so when you are using an outdated, unreliable weapon in a populated area, it is likely that the attack violates international humanitarian law,” she told the BBC.
“We have researchers on the ground who are investigating them and will investigate other claims related to cluster munitions, as well as other incidents in the ongoing conflict.”
Phosphorous Bombs Claims
Separately, there have been reports in Lebanon that Israel is using phosphorous bombs in its offensive.
Doctors in hospitals in southern Lebanon say they suspect some of the burns they are seeing are being caused by phosphorous bombs.
Jawad Najem, a surgeon at the hospital in Tyre, told the Associated Press news agency that patients admitted on Sunday were burn cases that resulted from Israeli phosphorous incendiary weapons.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud made an oblique reference to their use in an interview with French radio.
“According to the Geneva Convention, when they use phosphorous bombs and laser bombs, is that allowed against civilians and children?” he said on Monday.
The Geneva Conventions ban the use of white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said arms used in Lebanon did not contravene international norms.
“Everything the Israeli Defence Forces are using is legitimate,” the spokeswoman was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
The Israeli military says it is investigating the claims.
Here’s the HRW statement:
Israeli Cluster Munitions Hit Civilians in Lebanon
Israel Must Not Use Indiscriminate Weapons
(Beirut, July 24, 2006) – Israel has used artillery-fired cluster munitions in populated areas of Lebanon, Human Rights Watch said today. Researchers on the ground in Lebanon confirmed that a cluster munitions attack on the village of Blida on July 19 killed one and wounded at least 12 civilians, including seven children. Human Rights Watch researchers also photographed cluster munitions in the arsenal of Israeli artillery teams on the Israel-Lebanon border.
“Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used around civilians,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They should never be used in populated areas.”
According to eyewitnesses and survivors of the attack interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Israel fired several artillery-fired cluster munitions at Blida around 3 p.m. on July 19. The witnesses described how the artillery shells dropped hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village. They clearly described the submunitions as smaller projectiles that emerged from their larger shells.
The cluster attack killed 60-year-old Maryam Ibrahim inside her home. At least two submunitions from the attack entered the basement that the Ali family was using as a shelter, wounding 12 persons, including seven children. Ahmed Ali, a 45-year-old taxi driver and head of the family, lost both legs from injuries caused by the cluster munitions. Five of his children were wounded: Mira, 16; Fatima, 12; ‘Ali, 10; Aya, 3; and `Ola, 1. His wife Akram Ibrahim, 35, and his mother-in-law `Ola Musa, 80, were also wounded. Four relatives, all German-Lebanese dual nationals sheltering with the family, were wounded as well: Mohammed Ibrahim, 45; his wife Fatima, 40; and their children ‘Ali, 16, and Rula, 13.
Human Rights Watch researchers photographed artillery-delivered cluster munitions among the arsenal of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) artillery teams stationed on the Israeli-Lebanese border during a research visit on July 23. The photographs show M483A1 Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, which are U.S.-produced and -supplied, artillery-delivered cluster munitions. The photographs contain the distinctive marks of such cluster munitions, including a diamond-shaped stamp, and a shape that is longer than ordinary artillery, according to a retired IDF commander who asked not to be identified.
The M483A1 artillery shells deliver 88 cluster submunitions per shell, and have an unacceptably high failure rate (dud rate) of 14 percent, leaving behind a serious unexploded ordnance problem that will further endanger civilians. The commander said that the IDF’s operations manual warns soldiers that the use of such cluster munitions creates dangerous minefields due to the high dud rate.
Lebanese security forces, who to date have not engaged in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, also accused Israel of using cluster munitions in its attacks on Blida and other Lebanese border villages. These sources also indicated they have evidence that Israel used cluster munitions earlier this year during fighting with Hezbollah around the contested Shebaa Farms area. Human Rights Watch is continuing to investigate these additional allegations.
Human Rights Watch believes that the use of cluster munitions in populated areas may violate the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks contained in international humanitarian law. The wide dispersal pattern of their submunitions makes it very difficult to avoid civilian casualties if civilians are in the area. Moreover, because of their high failure rate, cluster munitions leave large numbers of hazardous, explosive duds that injure and kill civilians even after the attack is over. Human Rights Watch believes that cluster munitions should never be used, even away from civilians, unless their dud rate is less than 1 percent.
Human Rights Watch conducted detailed analyses of the U.S. military’s use of cluster bombs in the 1999 Yugoslavia war, the 2001-2002 Afghanistan war, and the 2003 Iraq war. Human Rights Watch research established that the use of cluster munitions in populated areas in Iraq caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the U.S.-led coalition’s conduct of major military operations in March and April 2003, killing and wounding more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians. Roughly a quarter of the 500 civilian deaths caused by NATO bombing in the 1999 Yugoslavia war were also due to cluster munitions.
“Our research in Iraq and Kosovo shows that cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without huge loss of civilian life,” Roth said. “Israel must stop using cluster bombs in Lebanon at once.”
Human Rights Watch called upon the Israel Defense Forces to immediately cease the use of indiscriminate weapons like cluster munitions in Lebanon.
Israel used cluster munitions in Lebanon in 1978 and in 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 Lebanon.
Israel has in its arsenal cluster munitions delivered by aircraft, artillery and rockets. Israel is a major producer and exporter of cluster munitions, primarily artillery projectiles and rockets containing M85 DPICM (Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition) submunitions. Israeli Military Industries, an Israeli government-owned weapons manufacturer, has reportedly produced more than 60 million M85 DPICM submunitions. Israel also produces at least six different types of air-dropped cluster bombs, and has imported from the United States M26 rockets for its Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
There is growing international momentum to stop the use of cluster munitions. Belgium became the first country to ban cluster munitions in February 2006, and Norway announced a moratorium on the weapon in June 2006. Cluster munitions are increasingly the focus of discussion at the meetings of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, with ever more states calling for a new international instrument dealing with cluster munitions.
© Copyright 2006 The Arabist. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.