While Israel has so far not answered a U.S. request about whether it is using American-supplied cluster bombs in Lebanon, in violation of previous agreements, the Israeli military chief-of-staff has indicated that the devastating projectiles have been used.
Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan, in a letter to Israeli troops issued Saturday and broadcast by Israeli armed forces radio that day, said eight Israeli soldiers had been injured picking up cluster bomb pieces in Lebanon as souvenirs.
"The chief-of-staff reveals," the broadcast said, "that eight soldiers were recently wounded as a result of lack of discipline and not observing safety rules. These soldiers picked up pieces of cluster bombs as souvenirs and were injured. The chief-of-staff appeals personally to every soldier through his letter: Do not pick up, do not take, do not scorn orders or instructions because your life could depend on it."
Cluster bombs, which release hundreds of steel shards from each of many grenade-sized bomblets, were supplied to Israel by the United States solely for defensive purposes. After reports that they were used in Israel's 1978 invasion of Lebanon, Israel reportedly promised to use them only against military, fortified targets.
Correspondents have reported Israeli use of cluster bombs against civilian targets in the current invasion and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Wat T. Cluverius told Congress on June 17 that the United States has asked Israel whether it has used them. As of yesterday, a State Department source said, Israel had not responded.