cluster bombs left vicious legacy in Lebanon
By Meron Rapoport
11/14/06 "Haaretz" --- - - During the second Lebanon war,
Israel made use of American-made cluster bombs that left
behind thousands of unexploded bomblets, even though Israel
Military Industries produces cluster bombs that leave nearly
no unexploded munitions. The main reason for the use of the
U.S.-made weapons: Israel uses military aid funds to
purchase cluster bombs from the U.S., and in order to buy
IMI-made bombs, the Israel Defense Forces would have to dip
into its own budget.
"The consideration is budgetary," a defense related source
said. This, despite the fact that each cluster bomblet costs
a mere $10.
During the war in Lebanon, Israel fired thousands of cluster
bomblets, using rockets and artillery shells as delivery
systems. In each rocket or shell there could be as many as
several hundred bomblets, which are meant to disperse and
cover an area of hundreds of square meters, exploding as
they hit the ground.
According to testimony published in Haaretz, Israel fired at
least 1.2 million bomblets through the use of the Multiple
Launch System Rocket (MLRS), which can fire up to 12 rockets
in 60 seconds. The United Nations estimates that three
million such bomblets were fired into Lebanon during the
The cluster bombs constitute the number one humanitarian
problem facing Lebanon after the war because many of the
bomblets remain unexploded and as duds, they have turned
into make-shift mines, converting towns, villages and fields
into undeclared minefields. Since the cease-fire went into
effect on August 14, at least 14 civilians, including many
children, have been killed by the unexploded bomblets.
The United Nations demining unit estimates the ratio of duds
in the cluster bomblets fired by Israel could be as high as
30-40 percent. This translates into hundreds of thousands of
unexploded bomblets throughout southern Lebanon, endangering
the lives of residents and preventing farmers from working
Soldiers in the artillery corps told Haaretz that nearly all
the cluster munitions fired into Lebanon were American-made.
The officially acknowledged ratio of duds is 15 percent, but
the U.S. Army acknowledged during the war in Iraq the ratio
of duds was closer to 30 percent. The IDF also makes use of
older versions of the U.S.-made cluster bombs, whose ratio
of duds is even higher.
In the 1990s, following injuries to Israeli soldiers by
unexploded clusters, a decision was made to develop better
munitions at IMI. According to globalsecurity.org, the rate
of duds in cluster bomblets made by IMI ranges between 1
percent to 2 percent. In numbers, this translates into one
dud out of every 500 IMI-made bomblets, compared to one out
of every three in the American-made ones. To date IMI has
manufactured some 60 million such bomblets, designated M85,
and has exported them to many armies throughout the world.
According to IMI "the unique IMI Self-Destruct M85 bomblet
ensures that no hazardous duds are encountered by advancing
friendly forces. The IMI safety mechanism prevents
inadvertent arming of duds by manual means. This requirement
is not met by any other bomblet worldwide."
According to globalsecurity.org, the cost of each bomblet
stands at $10, but defense sources say that even though IMI
has been producing this munition for the past eight years,
and exports it throughout the world, the IDF does not
purchase them. "Israel opts to purchase American bomblets
with military assistance funds," the source explained.
Israel receives $3 billion in annual military assistance
from the U.S., and nearly the entire amount is used to
procure American-made weapons. "The considerations are
budgetary. There are needs and it is clearly understandable
why American weapons, paid for with aid funds, are preferred
over Israeli weapons," the defense source said. "But these
bomblets are 'friendly' for our soldiers as well, and they
are the ones that need to enter the zone that was saturated
with cluster bombs," he added.
In response the army said that "because of operational
considerations, the IDF is unable to comment on the weapons
it has in its arsenal. However, it should be noted that the
IDF makes use of weapons and tactics that are permissible in
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