Halutz Orders Probe Into Use of Cluster Bombs in Lebanon

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz plans to appoint a major general to investigate the use of cluster bombs - some of which were fired against his orders - during the Lebanon war.

Halutz ordered the IDF to use cluster bombs with extreme caution and not to fire them into populated areas.

Nonetheless, it did so anyway, primarily using artillery batteries and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

IDF artillery, MLRS and aircraft are thought to have delivered thousands of cluster bombs, containing a total of some 4 million bomblets, during the war.

Following reports first published in Haaretz regarding the scale of cluster bomb use, Halutz appointed Brigadier General Mishel Ben Baruch to head a probe into the use of the weapons.

The inquiry's findings were handed over to Halutz and Chief Military Prosecutor Avichai Mendelblit, who will determine whether the case merits court-martial proceedings.

Based on the findings, Halutz decided to appoint a major general to investigate why field commanders blatantly disobeyed his orders.

The chief of staff's decision was first reported last evening by Channel 1.

Each rocket or shell can contain as many as several hundred bomblets, which are meant to disperse over an area of hundreds of square meters, exploding as they hit the ground.

Since the cease-fire went into effect on August 14, at least 22 civilians, including many children, have been killed and 134 others injured by unexploded bomblets.

To date, roughly 58,000 unexploded bomblets have been discovered at about 800 different sites in southern Lebanon. Most are near populated areas.

The United Nations demining unit believes that as much as 30 to 40 percent of bomblets may be duds. This translates into hundreds of thousands of unexploded bomblets throughout southern Lebanon, which endanger the lives of residents and block farmers from working their land.

According to testimony of an MLRS battery commander published in Haaretz, MLRS rockets were heavily used, even though they are known to be very inaccurate - the rockets may deviate up to 1,200 meters from their target - and a substantial percentage of the bomblets are known not to explode, thus becoming mines. In light of this, most experts view cluster ammunitions to be "non-discerning" weapons prohibited for use in a civilian environment.

According to the officer, in order to compensate for the rockets' lack of precision, they were told to "flood" the area with them. "We have no option of striking an isolated target, and the commanders know this very well," he said.