Israel Requests US Cluster Bombs

A section of Friday evening’s picket outside Downing Street
A section of Friday evening’s picket outside Downing Street

Israel has asked the US government to speed delivery of short-range anti-personnel rockets armed with deadly cluster munitions, for use against the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Israeli request for M-26 artillery rockets, which are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area, is likely to be approved shortly, the New York Times reported on Friday.

The US Defence Department, without confirming or denying the report, said: ‘We fully support Israel’s right to defend itself.’

Israel was authorised to buy the multiple launch rocket system in 1995, said Commander Greg Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman.

Hicks claimed: ‘These are not indiscriminate arms transfers’ adding that they are carried out ‘in the interest of peace and broader international security’.

He further claimed the cluster bomb launchers ‘help peaceful nations meet their legitimate needs of self-defence’.

At least ten other countries, including Egypt and Bahrain, have also bought the missile system, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, Commander Hicks said.

Israel needs the rockets immediately the New York Times quoted officials as saying, because it has been unable to suppress Hezbollah’s Katyusha rocket attacks by using bombs dropped from aircraft and other types of artillery.

Last July 14, the Bush administration supported an Israeli request for JP-8 jet fuel worth up to $210 million to help Israeli aircraft ‘keep peace and security in the region.’ 

Yesterday, Israel mounted 50 bombing raids on targets in Lebanon knocking out power stations, petrol dumps and hitting roads and tower blocks.

Eighteen explosions were heard in southern Beirut at 4pm yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet voted to support the UN resolution on a 0500 GMT cease-fire.

Israeli forces have continued to try to drive into southern Lebanon, with 30,000 troops and hundreds of tanks involved in the operation.

Hezbollah ground forces have confronted the invaders, with heavy fighting reported near the city of Tyre with Israeli troops who had been dropped by helicopter.

Hezbollah forces also fired 150 Katyusha rockets into Israel.

One Israeli was killed and six reported injured.

Overnight on Saturday, at least seven civilians were killed and nine wounded as Israeli forces staged a series of attacks across Lebanon, Lebanese officials said.

The dead included a mother, her three young children and their Sri Lankan maid, killed when Israeli bombs hit their home in the southern village of Burj el-Shemali.

Israel meanwhile said that 19 of its soldiers had died in fighting on Saturday, its heaviest losses in a single day since the start of the conflict.