Human Rights Watch Charges Georgia Used Defective Israeli-made Cluster Bombs

Group says bombs detonated improperly, killing civilians in Russia war; Georgia denies report.

A new study by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization has found that Georgia used Israeli-made cluster bombs during its war with Russia, and that the weapons were defective, detonating in populated areas, killing Georgian civilians.

Georgia, responding to the report, termed its conclusions "impossible."

The HRW report said that Russia also fired cluster bombs in large quantities, according an assessment by American intelligence.

HRW investigators said they discovered that the Georgian cluster bombs fell in at least nine residential areas, several of them a great distance from areas where Georgia said it had employed them in the war against Russian forces.

The report states that Georgia said the bombs were acquired from Israel and that the defects in them were apparently found in most of the production run.

Responding to the HRW report, the Georgian defense ministry said in an official statement that Georgia had never used cluster bombs against targets which were "close to or beside areas of civilian population in the course of the war." Therefore, it said, from Georgia's standpoint, the conclusions of the American organization were "impossible."

Georgian officials said they had acquired the bombs, rockets and launchers from an Israeli company. They refused to name the firm. But Pentagon sources identified it as Israel Military Industries (IMI), with which Georgia had maintained trade ties since the 1990s

Responding to questions from Haaretz, the Foreign Ministry referred the matter to the Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry spokesman said that the ministry does not disclose information on subjects tied to defense exports.

There is an international convention against the use of cluster bombs, but the convention has yet to take effect, and therefore is not binding on Israel.

During the Second Lebanon War, Israel used American-manufactured cluster bombs. After the war, when it became clear that some of the bombs had fallen in populated areas, causing casualties to the civilian population, the U.S. expressed anger over Israel's having used the bombs without its authorization.

Israel prefers to buy its cluster bombs from the United States because of the American foreign aid grant that it receives for defense needs. IMI, which also produces cluster bombs, has had difficulty selling them to the Israel Defense Forces, manufacturing them instead for sale to various foreign countries, among them NATO nations.