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Israeli military finds cluster bomb use in Lebanon war was legal

Investigators recommend no charges be filed against Israeli officers for the use of cluster bombs in the 2006 war with Hizbullah.

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Israeli daily Haaretz writes that Israel promised the United States, which sold it the cluster bombs, that it would not use them in populated areas, and that the IDF commander during the war, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, issued orders to that effect to the IDF forces fighting Hizbullah. But the investigation found that those orders were not always followed.

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The IDF used three main types of cluster munitions in the war: those dropped through air force bombs; others fired through artillery; and in rockets fired by the Multiple Launch Rocket System.
... During the IDF investigation it emerged that the air force did not violate the instructions, but the artillery and rocket batteries, commanded by the Northern Command officers, did fire into populated areas.
Most of the ammunition was used to target fields near populated areas, where Hezbollah was known to have bunkers and other positions used to launch [Katyusha rockets]. However, in some instances, the batteries also fired into populated areas, contrary to Halutz's orders.

The IDF's announcement was lambasted as a political move by a Lebanese government official, AP reports. "The Israeli decision indicates that there is no difference between the judicial authority and political authority in Israel. They all work to commit and cover up crimes which are against humanity," the official told AP.

An editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer similarly condemned the IDF's findings, saying that cluster bombs are "still not OK."

This isn't a morally ambiguous issue. The use of these bombs, which in effect linger on as landmines and continue killing long after wars are over, is wrong, and Israel was wrong to use them when the end of the war was imminent. Its military might not be able to see that, but the rest of the world can.

The editorial notes that just last week a Lebanese man was killed by a cluster bomb as he was out collecting firewood.

Additionally, an international conference was held earlier this month to try and establish a ban on cluster bombs, though Associated Press writes that "the meeting was marred by disagreements over how to define the deadly devices and how broad to make a ban, as well as by the absence of key producers and stockpilers — the United States, Russia, China and Israel."

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