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Group: Hezbollah Fired Cluster Bombs

October 19, 2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A rights group reported Thursday for the first time that Hezbollah fired cluster bombs at civilian areas in northern Israel during their summer war, although the number of strikes was a fraction of what Israel dropped on Lebanon.

Human Rights Watch said in a report that three Israeli civilians were injured when at least two cluster munitions landed between three homes in the Galilee village of Maghar on July 25.

The New York-based group and the United Nations have accused Israel of firing as many as 4 million cluster munitions into Lebanon, leaving unexploded ordnance that still threatens Lebanese civilians. Since the Israel-Hezbollah war ended Aug. 14, these duds have killed 20 Lebanese civilians and wounded 120 others, most of them children.

In its most recent report, Human Rights Watch also accused Hezbollah of using the weapons during the war, which began July 12 when Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. The group relied on witness reports, Israeli officials and its own investigation.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah on the report.

``We are disturbed to discover that not only Israel but also Hezbollah used cluster munitions in their recent conflict,″ Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division, said in the report.

The report said Hezbollah’s deployment of the Chinese-made Type-81, 122 mm rockets was ``the first confirmed use of this particular model of cluster munition anywhere in the world,″ although the group said it did not know how and when Hezbollah obtained the weapons.

The group documented two Type-81 cluster strikes by Hezbollah on July 25 in Maghar. The report quoted an Israeli Arab, Jihad Ghanem, as saying his 8-year-old son, Rami, and his brother and sister were injured.

``Rami’s arms bore irregular scars caused by pieces of shrapnel as well as smaller round marks that Jihad said were caused by steel spheres,″ the report said.

According to other villagers, the rocket that hit the Ghanem’s property was part of a volley of 10 to 12 rockets that landed in or near Maghar that afternoon, according to the report. It said witnesses said at least one rocket contained cluster munitions.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said one girl was killed by a cluster bomb in Maghar on July 25, and overall, 113 cluster bombs landed in Israel during the war.

Cluster bomblets are packed into bombs dropped from aircraft or into artillery shells. Some 200 to 600 of the bomblets are typically scattered over an area the size of a football field from a single cluster-bomb canister fired to destroy airfields or tanks and soldiers.

Usually 10 to 15 percent of the bomblets fail to explode immediately. Those that don’t explode right away can be detonated later by the slightest disturbance, experts say. Children mistake some bomblets for flashlight batteries or other small objects and pick them up, setting them off.

Human Rights Watch previously said Israel targeted at least 30 Lebanese towns and villages with cluster bombs during the war, and U.N. demining experts say up to 1 million unexploded cluster bombs remain in south Lebanon.

Israel has stressed that all the weapons it uses are legal under international law.

In a separate report, the Landmine Action group said three to four Lebanese civilians are being killed or injured each day as a result of Israeli-fired cluster bombs. The group warned that civilian casualties would increase as more people return to their villages in southern Lebanon.

Landmine Action said unexploded cluster bombs also are impeding relief work and that large areas of agricultural land in Lebanon are contaminated by the munitions.

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On the Net:

http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/israel_lebanon/clusters/index.htm

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