Ex-IDF official: Gov't not told of cluster bomb use

Former Peretz adviser says use of weapons only came to light after the end of the Second Lebanon War.

Cluster bomb 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Cluster bomb 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A former Israeli defense official alleged Saturday that the military never sought permission from the Israeli government to use cluster bombs during the 2006 Lebanon war. The use of the weapons only came to light after the end of the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah, Hagai Alon, a former adviser to then-defense minister Amir Peretz, told Israel Radio. In a statement Saturday, the military denied the claim and said it updated the government on all issues during the 2006 war. The military also said the use of cluster bombs is in line with international law. Cluster bombs open in flight and scatter dozens of bomblets over wide areas. The United Nations and human rights groups have said Israel dropped about 4 million cluster bomblets during the 2006 war. Up to 1 million failed to explode and now endanger civilians, according to UN demining experts. An Israeli inquiry into the war found that Israel did not violate international law by dropping cluster bombs, however it raised questions about the army's use of the weapons, noting a lack of "operational discipline, oversight and control." "We recommend that on this matter there be a re-evaluation of the rules and principles that apply to the army in using cluster bombs," said the report, published in January. Alon said that during the war, the government was not told by the military that it was using cluster bombs. "We didn't know, we weren't informed, that during the last two weeks, the (army) was using cluster bombs," Alon said, referring to the political leadership. "No one received permission for this. No one would have received permission for this," Alon added. Alon said the government only learned that the army had used the weapon when European countries demanded maps of where the bomblets were dropped, after some of their soldiers deployed in south Lebanon were wounded by the explosives. The former adviser said Peretz demanded an explanation from the army, which issued a report months afterward. The army's probe determined the use of the bombs was a "concrete military necessity." The investigation found that the majority of cluster bombs were fired at open areas used by Hizbullah, and that other cluster bombs were fired at residential areas used by Hizbullah for cover to fire rockets. The army said Saturday it did not conceal its activities from the government. "The government was updated continuously about all activities in the war," said an army statement. The United Nation's Mine Action Coordination Center reports that more than 30 people have died in cluster bombs and land mines since the war. Another 13 de-mining experts from the Lebanese army, the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon and private mine action teams have also died in similar explosions since the 2006 war, according to the UN center. The 34-day war was sparked after Hizbullah guerrillas attacked an IDF border patrol, killing three soldiers and capturing two more, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Their remains were handed over to Israel this week in a prisoner swap.