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US probing Israeli use of cluster bombs in Mideast conflict

[JURIST] The US State Department [official website] has opened an investigation into whether Israel used cluster munitions [FAS backgrounder; Cluster Munition Coalition advocacy website] in Lebanon during the most recent Middle East conflict [JURIST news archive] in violation of several US-Israel agreements restricting the use of the weapons, the New York Times reported Friday. Last month, advocacy group Human Rights Watch accused Israel [press release] of using cluster grenades in an attack on a Hezbollah village in south Lebanon, allegations which Israeli officials have denied [JURIST report]. Cluster munitions are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions (1977). At the time of its initial report, HRW said that the weapons used by Israel were not necessarily supplied by the United States and could have been Israeli-made.

The State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls [official website] opened its investigation earlier this week, according to a State Department official, based on allegations that US-made cluster bombs have been found in Southern Lebanon. The investigation is focusing on whether Israeli use of the weapons violates several decades-old agreements requiring that the weapons only be used against clearly defined military targets or the Arms Export Control Act [text], which authorizes use of the weapons only for self-defense. The State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement [official website], has meanwhile also pledged emergency aid to help defuse unexploded mines [Washington File report] and cluster munitions in Lebanon. Reuters has more.

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