IDF cluster bomb report still incomplete

Army may buy Israeli-made cluster bombs with self-destruct mechanism.

cluster bombs in lebanon (photo credit: AP)
cluster bombs in lebanon
(photo credit: AP)
A year after the Second Lebanon War and despite a diplomatic crisis with the United States, the IDF has yet to complete its investigation into the use of cluster bombs during the 34-day conflict with Hizbullah. IDF regulations in effect during the campaign, set by then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, only permitted the use of cluster bombs - fired to destroy airfields, tanks and soldiers, and capable of scattering 200 to 600 mini-explosives over targets - in open and unpopulated areas. Following the war, however, an initial probe conducted by Brig.-Gen. Michel Ben-Baruch found that in some cases the deadly munitions were, in violation of Halutz's orders, fired into populated areas during the last days of the war. Halutz appointed OC Military Colleges Maj.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen to investigate the matter. According to military sources, Hacohen questioned Northern Command's top brass and found that its former chief, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Adam, was suspected of ordering the firing of cluster bombs into populated areas during the final days of the fighting. The US State Department conducted its own investigation into the IDF's use of American-made cluster bombs and found that Israel had violated an agreement with Washington prohibiting the firing of the bombs on populated areas. As a result, last month, the US Senate included an amendment in its Foreign Aid legislation that will prevent Israel from purchasing cluster bombs with American military aid. Despite all the criticism and the diplomatic crisis caused by Israel's use of the bombs, the IDF has withheld Hacohen's report. It says the findings need to be reviewed by IDF Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit due to the sensitivity of the findings and the allegations. "The report should have come out already," a former senior IDF officer said. "With all the public criticism, the IDF should be making an effort to maintain transparency and release the report." The IDF said Hacohen's conclusions were not final and were pending decisions by Mandelblit as well as Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. As a result of the Senate's decision, the IDF is considering ordering a cluster bomb developed by Israel Military Industries (IMI) that includes a self-destruct mechanism, which drastically reduces the threat to civilians. While dozens of countries have purchased the IMI cluster bomb, Israel has until now declined to do so due to budgetary considerations. Israel uses American military aid - which needs to be spent in the US - to buy cluster bombs. Lebanon claims that close to 30 civilians have been killed and an additional 100 wounded by cluster bombs since the end of the war, with the shells exploding mostly in fields and orchards. The United Nations says millions of bomblets were dropped by the IDF on Lebanon during the war. "The self-destruct mechanism takes care of the main problem with cluster bombs," a defense industry source said. "The Senate's decision to prevent the sale to Israel might be an opportunity for the IDF to buy the IMI self-destructing bomblet, which would prevent a diplomatic crisis in the future."