(Beirut, July 24, 2006) – Israel has used artillery-fired cluster munitions in populated areas of Lebanon, Human Rights Watch said today. Researchers on the ground in Lebanon confirmed that a cluster munitions attack on the village of Blida on July 19 killed one and wounded at least 12 civilians, including seven children. Human Rights Watch researchers also photographed cluster munitions in the arsenal of Israeli artillery teams on the Israel-Lebanon border.“Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used around civilians,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They should never be used in populated areas.”
According to eyewitnesses and survivors of the attack interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Israel fired several artillery-fired cluster munitions at Blida around 3 p.m. on July 19. The witnesses described how the artillery shells dropped hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village. They clearly described the submunitions as smaller projectiles that emerged from their larger shells.
The cluster attack killed 60-year-old Maryam Ibrahim inside her home. At least two submunitions from the attack entered the basement that the Ali family was using as a shelter, wounding 12 persons, including seven children. Ahmed Ali, a 45-year-old taxi driver and head of the family, lost both legs from injuries caused by the cluster munitions. Five of his children were wounded: Mira, 16; Fatima, 12; ‘Ali, 10; Aya, 3; and `Ola, 1. His wife Akram Ibrahim, 35, and his mother-in-law `Ola Musa, 80, were also wounded. Four relatives, all German-Lebanese dual nationals sheltering with the family, were wounded as well: Mohammed Ibrahim, 45; his wife Fatima, 40; and their children ‘Ali, 16, and Rula, 13.
Human Rights Watch researchers photographed artillery-delivered cluster munitions among the arsenal of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) artillery teams stationed on the Israeli-Lebanese border during a research visit on July 23. The photographs show M483A1 Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, which are U.S.-produced and -supplied, artillery-delivered cluster munitions. The photographs contain the distinctive marks of such cluster munitions, including a diamond-shaped stamp, and a shape that is longer than ordinary artillery, according to a retired IDF commander who asked not to be identified.
Pallets of 155mm artillery projectiles including DPICM cluster munitions (center and right with yellow diamonds) in the arsenal of an IDF artillery unit on July 23 in northern Israel. Each DPICM shell contains 88 sub-munitions, which have a dud rate of up to 14 percent. © Human Rights Watch 2006
Close-up of a M483A1 DPICM artillery-delivered cluster munition present in the arsenal of an IDF unit in northern Israel. © Human Rights Watch 2006
The M483A1 artillery shells deliver 88 cluster submunitions per shell, and have an unacceptably high failure rate (dud rate) of 14 percent, leaving behind a serious unexploded ordnance problem that will further endanger civilians. The commander said that the IDF’s operations manual warns soldiers that the use of such cluster munitions creates dangerous minefields due to the high dud rate.