State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos confirmed Friday a New York Times report about the investigation. He said the US government has received information from non-governmental organizations operating in Lebanon that indicated that Israel used cluster bombs during the war.
"We take it seriously, of course. We're looking into it see the veracity of the claims. And we'll make determinations based on the evidence that we're able to find," Gallegos said.
The investigation will be conducted by the State Department's Office of Defense Trade Controls, which is in charge of enforcing agreements related to the sales of arms.
The agreements between the US and Israel regarding the cluster bombs do not prohibit their use on the battlefield but set restrictions relating to the area of use and the targets against which they are used. These agreements, which are part of the arms deal between the two countries, are not made public.
All arms exports from the US are also governed by the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, which requires that American weapons will be used only for self-defense. If the investigation finds that Israel violated the rules of use, the State Department could take action against Israel, though in the past it refrained from doing so.
David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said Friday that Israel did not receive any notice from the US government of any investigation into the use of cluster bombs in Lebanon.
During the second intifada, the US government looked into the use of US-made helicopters and planes for targeted killings but did not conclude that Israel breached the agreement.
In the late '70s, the State Department found that Israel "may have violated" the arms agreements with the US, but did not recommend on taking any action.
The only instance in which Israel was punished for violating the arms agreement was in 1982, when president Ronald Reagan put a freeze on sales of cluster bombs due to reports that Israel did not adhere to the rules of use in its war in Lebanon.
The current reports on Israeli use of cluster bombs - small "bomblets" which spread out of the main munitions to increase the damage to people on the ground - came from the UN's Mine Action Coordination Center, which is working in southern Lebanon to locate and dismantle unexploded bombs. The group reported that it found hundreds of cluster bombs all over the region and identified three of the types as US-made. The forth type was made by Israel.
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