IDF commander: We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon


Richard Moore

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IDF commander: We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon

By Meron Rappaport

"What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster 
bombs," the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of 
cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired 
around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.

In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used 
phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. 
According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was 
fired in the final 10 days of the war.

The rocket unit commander stated that Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) 
platforms were heavily used in spite of the fact that they were known to be 
highly inaccurate.

MLRS is a track or tire carried mobile rocket launching platform, capable of 
firing a very high volume of mostly unguided munitions. The basic rocket fired 
by the platform is unguided and imprecise, with a range of about 32 kilometers. 
The rockets are designed to burst into sub-munitions at a planned altitude in 
order to blanket enemy army and personnel on the ground with smaller explosive 

The use of such weaponry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy and 
ability to wreak great havoc against indeterminate targets over large areas of 
territory, with a margin of error of as much as 1,200 meters from the intended 
target to the area hit.

The cluster rounds which don't detonate on impact, believed by the United 
Nations to be around 40% of those fired by the IDF in Lebanon, remain on the 
ground as unexploded munitions, effectively littering the landscape with 
thousands of land mines which will continue to claim victims long after the war 
has ended.

Because of their high level of failure to detonate, it is believed that there 
are around 500,000 unexploded munitions on the ground in Lebanon. To date 12 
Lebanese civilians have been killed by these mines since the end of the war.

According to the commander, in order to compensate for the inaccuracy of the 
rockets and the inability to strike individual targets precisely, units would 
"flood" the battlefield with munitions, accounting for the littered and 
explosive landscape of post-war Lebanon.

When his reserve duty came to a close, the commander in question sent a letter 
to Defense Minister Amir Peretz outlining the use of cluster munitions, a letter
which has remained unanswered.

'Excessive injury and unnecessary suffering'

It has come to light that IDF soldiers fired phosphorous rounds in order to 
cause fires in Lebanon. An artillery commander has admitted to seeing trucks 
loaded with phosphorous rounds on their way to artillery crews in the north of 

A direct hit from a phosphorous shell typically causes severe burns and a slow, 
painful death.

International law forbids the use of weapons that cause "excessive injury and 
unnecessary suffering", and many experts are of the opinion that phosphorous 
rounds fall directly in that category.

The International Red Cross has determined that international law forbids the 
use of phosphorous and other types of flammable rounds against personnel, both 
civilian and military.

IDF: No violation of international law

In response, the IDF Spokesman's Office stated that "International law does not 
include a sweeping prohibition of the use of cluster bombs. The convention on 
conventional weaponry does not declare a prohibition on [phosphorous weapons], 
rather, on principles regulating the use of such weapons.

"For understandable operational reasons, the IDF does not respond to [accounts 
of] details of weaponry in its possession.

"The IDF makes use only of methods and weaponry which are permissible under 
international law. Artillery fire in general, including MLRS fire, were used in 
response solely to firing on the state of Israel."

The Defense Minister's office said it had not received messages regarding 
cluster bomb fire.

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