September 2, 2006

Lebanon Damage: Indiscriminant Cluster Bombs

Updated August 28, 2008

The US Disaster Assistance Response Team Reports that the
presense of unexploded ordinance continues to be the most
significant security concern in the conflict-affected areas
of Lebanon.

- US Government Situation Report, Lebanon, 9/5/06 [6].

The US/Israeli assault on Lebanon in July/August 2006 inflicted awsome damage See: Lebanon Damage Report 2006. A special concern was Israel's use of cluster bombs, which are bombs, missles or artillary shells filled with many smaller bomblets (submunitions). The small bomblets are dispersed over a wide area before they explode individually.

Photo source and narrative [1]

Cluster bombs are indiscriminant in two regards. First, they spread over large areas (multiple football fields) killikng or maiming anyone in that area, including civilians. Second, a percentage of the small bomblets do not initially explode, remaining live to explode later when disturbed by farmers or curious children.

For these reasons the US has placed prohibitions on Israel's use of US-made cluster bombs. In addition to these prohibitions, there are international prohibitions.[3]

Update: On January 29, 2007 the US State Department issued a statement indicating it was likely that Israel had violated US arms export agreements in its use of cluster munitions in Lebanon the summer of 2006.

Between the August 12 cease fire in Lebanon and September 9, the United Nations reports 14 civilians have been killed and 66 people injured by cluster bomblets.[2] For example, in the village of Aitta Shaab near the Israeli boarder three children, Sukna, Hassan and Merwa, aged 10 to 12, paused before a curious object. Sukna picked it up. The terrifying blast flung her to the ground, thrusting metal shards into her liver. Hassan's abdomen was cut open. Merwa was hit in the leg and arm. "We thought it was just a little ball," said Hassan with a hoarse whisper in the intensive care ward at Tyre's Jabal Amel hospital. [4]

Update, August 28, 2008: Since the war ended, twenty-seven civilians and thirteen bomb disposal experts have been killed. Over 200 civilians have also been injured by the unexploded ordnance. [9]

Israel faces numerous charges of war crimes. One centers on their indiscriminant use of cluster bombs.

UN Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said, "What's shocking, and I would say to me completely immoral, is that 90 per cent of [Israel's] cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution." Egeland notes the cluster bombs have affected large residential and farming areas and could be on the ground for years. "Colleagues in the UN Mine Action Co-Ordination Centre have undertaken assessments of nearly 85 per cent of bombed areas in South Lebanon have identified 359 separate cluster bomb strike locations that are contaminated with as many as 100,000 unexploded bomblets." [5] This figure has now risen to at least 450 sites.[2]

A UN report said American cluster munitions found included 559 M-42’s, an anti-personnel bomblet used in 105-millimeter artillery shells; 663 M-77’s, a submunition found in M-26 rockets See description; and 5 BLU-63’s, a bomblet found in the CBU-26 cluster bomb. Also found were 608 M-85’s, an Israeli-made submunition.

Haaretz reported that an IDF commander in the unit responsible for multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), like that in the photo to the right, said his battalion commander estimated the IDF fired some 1,800 cluster rockets on Lebanon during the war and they contained over 1.2 million cluster bomblets. The IDF also used cluster shells fired by 155 mm artillery cannons, so the number of cluster bombs fired on Lebanon is even higher.

The Haaretz article continues, "the United Nations' land mine removal team in Lebanon claims that the percentage of duds among the rockets fired by the IDF reaches some 40 percent. In light of these figures, the number of duds left behind by the Israeli cluster rockets in Lebanon is likely to reach half a million." This is consistent with reports by IDF reservists who report some of the missles were fired at ranges closer than specified by manufacturer guidlines, which leads to more unexploded bomblets. [7]

The MRLS commander said, "In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs, what we did there was crazy and monstrous." [7]

As of October 27, 2006, nearly $6 million in US tax-payer dollars have been spent on demining and clearing of unexploded ordinance in Lebanon. [8]


[1] Federation of American Scientists Web LINK

[2] United States Government Situation Report, Lebanon Humanitarian Emergency, USAID citing various sources, September 1, 2006.

[3] 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which states: “Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Although Israel is not a signatory to this protocol, the protocol is considered "customary international law" that applies to all nations. See Indiscriminant Attack

[4] Declan Walsh, August 22, 2006.

[5] UPI, Heather Murray, August 30, 2006 Web LINK

[6]United States Government Situation Report, Lebanon Humanitarian Emergency, USAID citing various source, Index of reports by date.Web LINK

[7] Haazretz Article published on about September 11, 2006.

[8] USAID Lebanon Situation Report, October 27, 2006. Web LINK

[9] DemocracyNow! Headlines, "Shortage of Funding Halts Mine Sweeping in Lebanon"
August, 25, 2008.

See Also

New York Times, David Cloud, August 26, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, Ana Nogueira, August 23, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, August 25, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, August 30, 2006. Web LINK

DemocracyNow!, August 28, 2008. "Shortage of Funding Halts Mine Sweeping in Lebanon"

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