IDF concludes cluster bomb use legal

Investigation finds bombs dropped in urban areas were done so in response to imminent threats.

cluster bombs in lebanon (photo credit: AP)
cluster bombs in lebanon
(photo credit: AP)
Despite several cases during the Second Lebanon War when cluster bombs were not used within the guidelines set by the General Staff, Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit has decided not to take any legal measures against commanders who deviated from those orders, the IDF announced on Monday. The announcement came close to a year-and-a-half after an investigation - headed by OC IDF National Defense College Maj.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen, - was launched into the military's controversial use of cluster bombs during the month-long war against Hizbullah in 2006. Mandelblit accepted Hacohen's conclusions that, in all cases, cluster bombs were used in accordance with international law, though not necessarily the guidelines of the General Staff. A previous probe, conducted by Brig.-Gen. Michel Ben-Baruch from the IDF's Ground Forces Command, found that the use of cluster bombs during the war did not match the orders regulated by then-chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz. "The use of the weaponry was legal once it was determined that [it was needed] in order to prevent rocket fire into Israel," Mandelblit's statement read. "Its use was a concrete military necessity." According to Hacohen's probe, the majority of cluster bombs were dropped in open and uninhabited areas and when the bomblets were dropped in urban areas it was done as an "immediate response" to target areas that were being used as launch-pads by Hizbullah guerrillas. Mandelblit said that even in cases when commanders deviated from the orders, their actions were still in accordance with international law. Israel came under harsh criticism following the war for its use of the controversial weapon that continues to maim civilians in southern Lebanon. Most criticism came from international human rights groups and the UN. The UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, defined Israel's use of cluster bombs as "immoral" and called on the countries supplying Israel with the bombs to discuss their future sales of these arms to the IDF. The UN human rights council also passed a resolution forming a three-member committee to investigate allegations that Israel violated human rights during the war. Mandelblit's report rejected the accusation that the IDF committed war crimes and claimed that Hizbullah's use of forestry areas left the Israeli military with no choice but to use weaponry, like cluster bombs, which provide maximum coverage within the targeted area. Mandelblit further found that cluster bombs were fired in accordance with the military principle of distinction between combatants and civilians, and were used only when the commanding officer determined that the potential damage to civilians, as well as infrastructure, was not disproportionate to the military advantage to be gained from firing cluster bombs.