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Israel to probe cluster bomb use: Reports

Israel has defended its right to use cluster bombs and says it only deploys them in accordance with international law.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 06:15 IST

Israel's military is investigating the use of cluster bombs by its forces during the war in Lebanon earlier this year with Hezbollah guerrillas, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

Israel has defended its right to use cluster bombs and says it only deploys them in accordance with international law.

Israeli media reported the country's chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, had prohibited the wide use of cluster bombs during the war. It said any firing of cluster bombs was governed by strict regulations including a ban on their use in populated areas.

Israel's Channel 1 television, without citing sources, reported that artillery batteries had contravened Halutz's orders on the usage of cluster bombs and had fired them into areas of southern Lebanon.

The usage of such munitions by gunners came to light as a result of an internal military probe, Channel 1 said.

US-based Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using cluster bombs in populated areas of southern Lebanon during the war, which killed about 1,200 Lebanese and 157 Israelis.

Israeli media reported that Halutz has ordered a full investigation into the use of such munitions during the war.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on reports of the use of cluster bombs.

He said Halutz had instructed a senior officer to investigate the findings of a probe, which looked at "queries" resulting from the military's operations against Hezbollah rocket launching sites in Lebanon. The spokesman declined to comment on the nature of queries.

Cluster bombs burst into bomblets and spread out near the ground. The United Nations has called for a freeze on the use of those bombs in or near populated areas.

More than 20 people have been killed and 70 wounded, mostly civilians, by cluster bombs since the end of the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in mid-August.

A report by London-based Landmine Action said hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets still litter the Lebanese countryside. Many of them are reported to be US-made.

The US State Department is investigating whether Israel violated US rules in its use of US-made rockets armed with cluster bombs in Lebanon.

Hezbollah, which fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, has been accused by human rights groups of using cluster munitions. It has denied the charge.