Monday, January 29, 2007

US~Israel preparing for war with Iran?

Israel to buy US bomb kits for $100M



The Israeli air force has decided to buy smart munitions kits from the Chicago-based Boeing aerospace company for an estimated $100 million, Israeli defense officials said Monday.

The Jerusalem Postdaily said the planned purchase was for the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, which converts conventional 2,000 pound bombs into satellite-guided, precision weapons.

Defense officials said the acquisition was meant to replenish stores used up in last summer's monthlong war against the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and increase future stock levels.

The Jerusalem Post said the purchase would not require Congressional approval, as it was the exercise of a previously approved purchase option.

Congress is expected on Monday to receive a preliminary State Department report on whether Israel misused American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the report would say Israel may have violated agreements with the United States by its use of American-supplied cluster munitions during last year's war.

The paper described disagreement among midlevel officials at the Defense Department and the State Department, with some in both departments arguing that Israel violated Israel violated U.S. prohibitions on using cluster munitions in populated areas
. Others in both departments argued that the weapons were used in self-defense to stop Hezbollah rocket attacks and that, at worst, only a technical violation may have occurred.

The Israeli army has said all weapons it uses "are legal under international law and their use conforms with international standards."

Cluster bombs are typically used against tanks and explode upon impact with steel. In the conflict in Lebanon, the shells were fired into urban and rural areas where Israel thought Hezbollah guerrillas might be hiding. Many hit the ground or pavement and did not explode. Since the war ended, several people have been killed by exploding bomblets.

Israel said it was forced to hit civilian targets in Lebanon because Hezbollah fighters were using villages as bases for rocket launchers aimed at Israel. More than 1,000 Lebanese, including at least 250 Hezbollah guerrillas, were killed in the war, while 120 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians were killed.

U.S: Israel may have misused cluster bombs

POSTED: 1:41 p.m. EST, January 29, 2007

Story Highlights• State Department tells Congress Israel may have violated arms-import pact
• Rights groups, Arab governments criticized use of cluster bombs
• Volley of six cluster shells can scatter 4,000 bombs in square kilometer
• 30 deaths from leftover bombs recorded since last year's war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Israel's use of U.S.-made cluster bombs in last year's war in Lebanon may have violated agreements with the United States governing their use, the State Department said Monday.

"There may -- likely could have been some violations," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The State Department has sent a report to Congress laying out the preliminary findings, he said.

Agreements under the Arms Export Control Act govern use of munitions sold by the United States. Those agreements are confidential.

There is no international treaty in effect regulating cluster bombs, according to Human Rights Watch, but their use is restricted under international humanitarian law. Nations are expected to clean up areas where they used cluster bombs once a conflict ends.

Enormous collateral damage and civilian casualties from Israel's war with Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon caused an outcry by rights groups and Arab governments about the use of cluster bombs and prompted the U.S. investigation.

Cluster munitions used in Lebanon were fired from artillery shells, with each shell carrying more than 600 of the cluster bombs, according to Human Rights Watch. The larger shell bursts open near the ground, scattering the bomblets.

Human Rights Watch reported those used by Israel in Lebanon were usually fired in a volley of six shells, scattering almost 4,000 bomblets on a square kilometer.

The United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center of South Lebanon estimates 1 million unexploded cluster munitions remain scattered in southern Lebanon. The center estimates they'll be cleared by December of this year.

As of January 18, 30 people have been killed by the unexploded munitions in Lebanon, the center reports.

Hezbollah also used cluster munitions during the war, Human Rights Watch says, firing Chinese-made cluster rockets into Israel.

McCormack said that Israel cooperated with the investigation but that the U.S. also used other sources of information.

He stressed that the findings were preliminary. Any further investigation or action against the Israeli government would be determined in consultations with Congress, he said.

"We do take our obligations under the law seriously," McCormack said, adding the fact the Bush administration sent the report to Congress was evidence of that.

The Associated Press reported that Washington banned the sale of cluster bombs to Israel in 1982 after finding the Israeli military misused them during the war in Lebanon that year. That ban lasted six years.

David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, acknowledged Israel's cooperation with the investigation and defended Israel's use of the weapons.

"Israel provided a detailed response to the administration's request for information on our use to halt Hezbollah's unprovoked ... fire against our civilian population centers. Israel suffered heavy casualties in these attacks and acted as any government would in exercising its right for self-defense," he said.

In Jerusalem, Israel Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev told Reuters: "Israel takes the concerns raised by the U.S. very seriously. In our response, we have been as detailed, as forthcoming and transparent as possible."

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