Unexploded cluster bomb litter homes, gardens and highways in south Lebanon, the U.N. said Friday, as the U.S. State Department investigated whether Israel’s use of the American-made weapons violated secret agreements.
Dalya Farran, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center, said cluster bombs have been found in 285 locations in south Lebanon.
“And our teams are still doing surveys and adding new locations every day,” Farran said. “We find about 30 new locations per day.”
The U.S. State Department is investigating whether the use of three types of American cluster munitions — anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area — violated secret agreements that restrict when such arms can be employed, The New York Times reported Friday.
The newspaper quoted several current and former U.S. officials as saying they doubted the probe would lead to sanctions against Israel, but that it might be an effort by the Bush administration to ease Arab criticism of its military support for Israel.
The U.S. has also postponed a shipment of M-26 artillery rockets, another cluster weapon, to Israel, the newspaper said.
U.N. demining experts refused to comment on the U.S. investigation, but suggested Israel violated some aspects of international law.
“It’s not illegal to use (cluster bombs) against soldiers or your enemy, but according to Geneva Conventions it’s illegal to use them in civilian areas,” Farran said. “But it’s not up to us to decide if it’s illegal — I’m just giving facts and letting others do analysis.”
Israel said it was forced to hit civilian targets in Lebanon because Hezbollah fighters were using villages as a base for rocket-launchers aimed at Israel. Some 850 Lebanese and 157 Israelis died in the fighting.
Lebanon’s south is also riddled with land mines, laid by Israeli soldiers as they pulled out of the region in 2000, after an 18-year occupation. Hezbollah has also planted mines to ward off Israeli forces. Lebanon has long called for Israel to hand over maps of the minefields.
The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center opened an office in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre in 2003 to deal with the land mine problem. Since the cease-fire, the office has redirected its efforts toward clearing unexploded Israeli bombs from the area.