Lebanon: The post-war bombings


    Jan. 1st 2007, Haaretz, By Meron Rapoport


    Photo: Paz Ahora, Israeli bombing of Beirut’s suburbs 2006.

Craig Appleby did not take part in the Second Lebanon War. The 36-year-old Briton from Farnham came to Lebanon in September 2007, more than a year after the end of the fighting. A month later he had joined the list of war dead.

An Israeli cluster bomblet, one of hundreds of thousands of bomblets contained in cluster rockets that the Israel Defense Forces fired at Lebanon during the war, blew up in his hands not far from Bint Jbail. Appleby, a British Army veteran who was head of one of the UN cluster munition clearing teams in South Lebanon, was killed instantly. A week earlier, a six-year-old Lebanese boy and a shepherd were also killed by bomblets.

Last week, Military Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit determined no action should be taken against IDF officers who were responsible for firing the cluster bombs at Lebanon. No one should be surprised at the decision. From the outset it was clear that the attempt to find officers who had exceeded their authority and fired the bomblets without permission from their superiors was ludicrous.

There was no one in the IDF senior brass who did not know that the IDF was firing cluster bombs in huge numbers. It was implemented with the permission, and on the authority, of battalion commanders up to the General of Command, and apparently
even higher. If they were to decide to try anyone for breaking international law by firing cluster bombs, they would have had to put the entire IDF brass in the docket, from the chief of staff on down.

Mandelblit’s decision is based on the findings of a probe by Major General Gershon Hacohen. The latter’s findings are on a par with what Haaretz reported during and immediately after the war, and with UN reports and those of international organizations.
Everyone, including Hacohen, agrees that the IDF fired numerous cluster bombs at Southern Lebanon, some of it on population centers. According to accepted interpretation of international law, cluster bombs are considered indiscriminate munitions, and thus it is prohibited to fire on locales where there are civilians. And yet the MAG decided that the firing did not contravene international law.

One of Mandelblit’s main arguments is that the cluster bombs were a response to Hezbollah fire. Even if this is true – Haaretz has information that much of the firing was pre-planned and not carried out as a response to Hezbollah shooting – it is known that these bomblets are not precise. Their range of precision is about one kilometer, and they scatter over a large area. There is no way they can hit a single Katyusha launcher.

Another argument is that the artillery officers knew that the towns on which they were firing were deserted. That argument is even weaker than the previous one. Not only do artillery officers fire at coordinates they are given and are not meant to know if there are or are not civilians within range; it is now known with certainty that tens of thousands of civilians remained in the towns and villages of southern Lebanon throughout the war. One of the reasons they did so is that while the IDF did distribute leaflets calling on the inhabitants to leave, it also bombed civilians who were driving on the roads.

Without reference to the two above points, the IDF commanders knew that when they fired the cluster bombs indiscriminately, they were in fact turning all of southern Lebanon into a mine field. The Artillery Corps brass knew very well that the number of unexploded bomblets was huge, between 15 percent and 30 percent. That is the reason that live cluster rockets are not launched during training: In the whole Negev there are no areas big enough to leave such a large quantity of cluster bombs without concern.

When the IDF senior staff gave the nod to the firing of more than a million cluster bombs at Lebanon, it should have known that it was leaving hundreds of thousands of bomblets that did not explode, which would harm civilians for many years to come. Craig Appleby was killed by one of these bombs. Others have killed 39 civilians since the beginning of the war. For this, the MAG decided no one need be made accountable.

Leave a comment

Upcoming events