Conclusions of the report regarding the use of weapons

14. Use of weapons

247. Israeli armed forces are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment in terms of surveillance, intelligence-gathering and precision targeting. During the Commission’s investigations allegations were made concerning the use by the IDF of a range of weapons or, more accurately, ammunition which might be considered illegal. Such allegations were made in relation to the use of depleted uranium, white phosphorous and fuel air explosives. Some witnesses also brought to the Commission’s attention injuries they described as abnormal, e.g. completely charred but intact corpses, or human bodies that apparently simply vaporized.

248. The Commission investigated the use of weapons as best it could through on-site visits, witness statements, discussions with the Lebanese Army, hospital officials and Lebanese Red Cross authorities who had treated the casualties; also with UNIFIL and Observer Group Lebanon sources that had first hand observation of actions on the ground.

(a) Cluster munitions

249. Cluster munitions were used extensively by IDF throughout Lebanon. These consisted of both ground-based (M483A1 155mm artillery shells, M 395 and M 396 155 mm artillery shells and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)) and air-dropped (CBU-58 munitions).
There is ample evidence pointing to a significant increase in the intensity of the overall bombardment including cluster munitions in the last 72 hours of the conflict, including the period after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). OCHA affirms that 90 per cent of all cluster bombs and their sub-munitions were fired by IDF into south Lebanon
during these last 72 hours of the conflict. For example, cluster bombardments were particularly heavy in and around the Tibnin hospital grounds, especially on 13 August when 2,000 civilians were seeking shelter there.

250. UNMACC, in cooperation with the Lebanese armed forces (National De-mining Office), has identified a total of 789 cluster strike locations throughout Lebanon. As of 31 October 2006, the estimate is that over one million cluster bombs had been fired in Lebanon. The reported dud rate of cluster munitions is as high as 40 per cent. In other words, many of the bomblets did
not explode but, rather like anti-personnel mines, they littered the ground with the potential to explode at any time later.

251. This wide use of cluster bombs has been admitted by Israeli forces. On 12 September, the Haaretz newspaper quoted an IDF unit commander stating that “[I]n order to compensate for the rockets’ imprecision, the order was to “flood” the area with them. … We have no option of striking an isolated target, and the commanders know this very well”. He also stated that the
reserve soldiers were surprised by the use of MLRS rockets, because during their regular army service, they were told these are ‘judgment day weapons’ of IDF and intended for use in a full-scale war. An Israeli reservist soldier interviewed by the same newspaper also stated that “[I]n the last 72 hours we fired all the munitions we had, all at the same spot, we didn’t even
alter the direction of the gun. Friends of mine in the battalion told me they also fired everything in the last three days - ordinary shells, clusters, whatever they had.” With regard to the exact timing of the launching of the cluster rockets, a unit commander said “[T]hey told us that this is a good time because people are coming out of the mosques and the rockets would deter them.” The commander also said that at least in one case, they were asked to fire cluster rockets toward
“a village’s outskirts” in the early morning.

252. During the conflict, including the last 72 hours, IDF cluster strikes were concentrated on three main areas of southern Lebanon. First, in the areas immediately to the east and south east of Tyre, a heavy populated area. The locality was possibly targeted because of its very rich agricultural area specializing in banana and citrus orchards, but more probably because it was
used by Hezbollah to fire missiles using the orchards as cover. Second, in the Tibnin area, which is a Hezbollah stronghold. Lastly, in the area north of the Litani; this is more difficult to explain, as it is known to be outside the range of Hezbollah rockets into Israel. The argument for using cluster bombs to interdict rocket firings therefore does not apply.

253. There is also ample evidence that cluster bombs were used in an indiscriminate manner and that many towns and villages were littered with the bomblets as well as large tracts of agricultural land. In addition to Tibnin, Nabatiyeh, Yahmor, Ain Ibel,Yaroun, Bent J’beil, Qfar Tibnit and Swane were also deliberate targets of cluster bombings.

254. The particular military use of these munitions lies in the wide area the munitions can cover. It provides the military with a very effective weapon against targets such as troops in the open or in defensive positions, artillery batteries, and concentrations of vehicles or tanks. However, the inherent area coverage of cluster munitions calls for clear separation between military targets and civilians or their property otherwise the latter will suffer the indiscriminate consequences of their use. Account must also be taken of the known failure rates of such ammunition which can result in excessive and disproportionate harm to civilians after the conflict.

255. Although there are ongoing efforts to ban cluster munitions, for example under the umbrella of the Conventional Weapons Convention, unfortunately there is no prohibition under international humanitarian law on their use at present. The key issue in relation to the law and their use by the military rests on the known wide dispersal pattern of the cluster munitions on the
ground and hence the fact that they cannot be targeted precisely. As a result it is often difficult, if not impossible, for the military to discriminate between military and civilian objects when the weapons are used in or near populated areas. The pertinent issue therefore is how the munitions are used.

256. Considering the indiscriminate manner in which cluster munitions were used, in the absence of any reasonable explanation from IDF, the Commission finds that their use was excessive and not justified by any reason of military necessity. When all is considered, the Commission finds that these weapons were used deliberately to turn large areas of fertile
agricultural land into “no go” areas for the civilian population. Furthermore, in view of the foreseeable high dud rate, their use amounted to a de facto scattering of anti-personnel mines across wide tracts of Lebanese land.

(b) Depleted uranium

257. The IDF has within its arsenal of weapons munitions that can be equipped with depleted uranium warheads. It is therefore possible that depleted uranium (DU) munitions were used by the IDF during the conflict. However, the preliminary findings of the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research, which carried out a detailed field survey of several bomb sites,
concluded that there was no indication of depleted uranium having been used in the conflict, with the caveat that some additional field work was still necessary to draw a final conclusion.

(c) White phosphorous/incendiary weapons

258. White phosphorous is designed for use by artillery, mortars or tanks to put down an instant smoke screen to cover movement in, for example, an attack or flanking manoeuvre. The phosphorous ignites on contact with air and gives off a thick smoke. If the chemical touches skin it will continue to burn until it reaches the bone unless deprived of oxygen. It is not
designed as an incendiary weapon per se, for example in the same way as a flame thrower or the petroleum jelly substance used in napalm.

259. The Commission received a number of reports concerning the use of this type of ammunition. On 16 July, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Lebanese military sources stated that IDF had “used white phosphorous incendiary bombs against civilian targets on villages in the Arqoub area” in southern Lebanon. In addition, the Commission was told about and witnessed a number of sites where the possible use of white phosphorous had occurred, among others, at Marwaheen on 16 July during the gathering of the civilians in the village prior to their evacuation under UNIFIL supervision. This was witnessed by civilians concerned and interviewed by the Commission. It was also confirmed by UNIFIL officers on the scene that 12 white phosphorous rounds were fired directly at the civilians.

260. Another report mentioned an incident that took place at Aita ech Chaab. The Commission visited two houses that had been badly burnt. The Commission did not find evidence of the use of incendiary weapons on the outside of the house. It is possible that smoke shells from a tank were fired into it to ignite the fires inside but this could not be confirmed.

261. On 23 October it was reported in The Guardian newspaper221 that the Government of Israel had “admitted that it used … phosphorous weapons in its attacks against targets during its month-long war in Lebanon this summer”. The Israeli admission was made by Minister Jacob Edery, who was questioned on the subject by Zahava Gal-On, a member of the Knesset. Mr. Edery said that “[T]he IDF holds phosphorous munitions in different forms. The IDF made use of phosphorous shells during the war against Hezbollah in attacks against military targets in open ground”.

262. The Commission did not find evidence concerning the use of incendiary weapons, such as flame throwers or napalm.

(d) Dense inert metal explosives (DIME)

263. Various media have reported on the possible use by IDF of Dense inert metal explosives (DIME), a new weapon, in Lebanon. It was reported that Israeli Air Force Major General Yitzhak Ben-Israel had described the weapon as being designed “to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons”. It was brought to the Commission’s attention by a number of expert medical witnesses that some of the casualties had suffered from inexplicable burn injuries not witnessed before. These witnesses had extensive experience of war wounds from previous conflicts; their testimony is therefore of some
relevance. IDF have strongly denied the use of such weapons. If they were effectively used, the Commission finds that they would be illegal under international humanitarian law. Protocol I of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (hereafter
“the Conventional Weapons Convention”), to which Israel is a signatory, prohibits the use of any weapon the primary effect of which is to injure by fragments which cannot be detected by X-rays. The Commission was unable in the time available to thoroughly investigate the claims. However, in drawing attention to this weapon and in particular to the expert witnesses’ testimonies, it finds that the possible use of such weapons in Lebanon should be the subject of further investigation.

(e) Fuel-air explosives

264. There were some allegations from witnesses that IDF used fuel-air explosives during the conflict. This was particularly the case in relation to the destruction of property in South Beirut.226 The weapon is designed for targets such as minefields, armour, and aircraft parked in the open and vehicles. Its vacuum effect is particularly useful against hardened bunkers. The
Commission found no evidence of its use for such purposes.

265. There were some reports that Israel employed fuel-air explosives to clear areas suspected to be planted with improvised explosive device (IED) and mines placed by Hezbollah in South Lebanon. The fuel-air countermine called “carpet” is employed by the Israeli corps of engineers. The carpet uses small rockets fired from a stand-off range, deploying highly explosive aerosol over the suspected area. The explosion of this mixture develops high pressure impulse which effectively “kills” fuses or sets off explosive devices in the affected area.

(f) Booby traps and improvised explosive devices (IEDs)

266. The Commission was informed that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) may have been left behind by IDF as they withdrew. The Lebanese newspaper Annahar in October 2006 showed a picture of two children examining a so-called “chocolate bar” booby trap. It was a silver-wrapped rectangular piece of material. In fact, this was nothing more than a piece of the “chaff” discarded by a passing IDF fighter jet, i.e. the magnesium flares ejected by such aircraft to act as a heat source decoy to deflect a missile attack. The Commission in fact found no evidence of booby traps having been left in place by IDF.

267. None of the weapons known to have been used by IDF are illegal per se under international humanitarian law. However, the way in which the weapons were used in some cases transgresses the law. The use of cluster munitions has already been addressed. The Commission’s findings, detailed earlier in this report in relation to the direct targeting of civilian objects, infrastructure and protected property is at odds with the apparent interpretation of IDF and the application of the principle of distinction. The vast destruction of civilian objects throughout the Lebanon, but especially in the South where some villages were virtually completely destroyed indicates that weapons systems were not used in a professional manner, despite assurances from IDF that legal advice was being taken in the planning process. The record shows this: 1,191 persons killed; 30,000 houses destroyed; 30 UNIFIL and OGL positions directly targeted with 6 dead and 10 injured; and 789 cluster munitions strike locations.

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