'Hezbollah used cluster bombs'

2006-10-19 16:54
Jerusalem - Hezbollah fired cluster munitions into northern Israel during its 34-day war with Israel, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Thursday.

"This is the first time that Hezbollah's use of these controversial weapons has been confirmed," the group said in a press release.

"We are disturbed to discover that not only Israel but also Hezbollah used cluster munitions in their recent conflict," the release quoted Steve Goose, director of HRW's arms division, as saying.

"Use of cluster munitions is never justified in civilian-populated areas because they are inaccurate and unreliable," HRW added.

There was no immediate reaction from Hezbollah.

Israel criticised over cluster bombs

Israel has been roundly criticised for its use of cluster bombs during the war with Hezbollah that began on July 12 and ended with a UN-brokered ceasefire on August 14.

According to Israel's liberal Haaretz newspaper, the Israeli military dropped more than 1.2 million cluster bomblets into Lebanon during the month-long conflict.

United Nations chief Kofi Annan has condemned Israel's use of cluster munitions, and the world body estimates that as many as 40% of the apple-sized bomblets fired into Lebanon failed to explode on impact.

Deaths since the ceasefire

The weapons have killed at least 21 people and wounded more than 100 others across southern Lebanon following the ceasefire.

Cluster munitions spread bomblets over a wide area from a single container. The bomblets often do not explode on impact, but can do so later at the slightest touch, making them similar to anti-personnel landmines.

HRW said that Hezbollah - which launched nearly 4 000 rockets into Israel during the war - had used Chinese-made Type-81 122 millimetre rockets, "the first confirmed use of this particular model of cluster munitions anywhere in the world".

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