JERUSALEM (AFP) -Israel’s army dropped more than 1.2 million cluster bombs into Lebanon during the month-long conflict, according to an Israeli army officer.
The unnamed officer described his unit’s use of the controversial bomblets during Israel’s 34-day offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas as “crazy and monstrous”, the liberal Haaretz newspaper reported Wednesday.
“We covered entire villages with cluster bombs,” the newspaper quoted the commander as saying.
The 1.2 million cluster bombs cited by the commander only included those bomblets dropped by a Multiple Launch Rocket System. Additional cluster bombs were fired from 155 mm mortars or dropped from the air, he said.
Other soldiers cited in the article said the army fired phosphorous shells to start fires in Lebanon.
The Red Cross says international law prohibits the use of phosphorous against humans.
Human rights organizations have long advocated a ban on cluster bombs because of their disproportionate and indiscriminate nature and because their high dud rate creates vast minefields.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli army denied the army had violated international law.
“All the weapons and munitions used by the army are legal under international law and their use conforms with international standards,” she told AFP.
In the first 15 days after the August 14 ceasefire in the Israel-Hezbollah war, 52 Lebanese civilians were killed by unexploded cluster bombs, according to the United Nations.
UN chief Kofi Annan has condemned Israel’s use of cluster bombs and the world body estimates that as much as 40 percent of the apple-sized bomblets fired into Lebanon failed to explode on impact.
The UN has found that Israel dropped 90 percent of all the cluster bombs it used in Lebanon in the three days immediately preceding the ceasefire.
Annan has criticized Israel for failing to provide UN peacekeepers working to clear away unexploded ordinance with adequately detailed maps of where Israel dropped the cluster bombs.
Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Israel’s cluster bomb use in Lebanon had “been taken to a new level”, during a visit to southern Lebanon immediately after the war.
“I’ve never been anywhere where I saw these numbers of duds lying around,” Garlasco, a former Pentagon analyst, told AFP in mid-August.
The Geneva Conventions ban the use of the weapons that do not pass the proportionality test, under which civilian harm cannot outweigh military advantage.
In February, Belgium became the first country to ban cluster munitions on these grounds. Norway declared a moratorium on their use four months later.