Hezbollah crossed the international border and kidnapped two uniformed Israeli soldiers who have been held incognito since 12 July. Several more IDF soldiers were killed in the incident and its aftermath. Hezbollah fired more than 4,500 missiles from launchers located not only in the middle of residential NEIGHBORHOODS in southern Lebanon, but inside HOUSES (donâ€™t take our word for it, there is video), making human shields of the occupants. The missiles were aimed at residential neighborhoods of Haifa and the shells were filled with ball bearings designed to increase the damage.
Attacked, Israel retaliated. The IDF/Air Force (IAF) knocked out the medium and long-range missile launchers very quickly and destroyed bridges, airport runways and road crossings to prevent Hezbollah from taking the soldiers out of the country. The IAF, along with ground forces, began hunting for the short-range launchers. Giving up the element of surprise, the IAF leafleted the villages to warn the civilians to leave. Many did. Droves of them were on the nightly news, wailing about starving to death, although they were generally less than 50 miles from home and the Red Cross was â€“ with Israeli assistance â€“ unloading relief supplies for them virtually from the first day.
So whoâ€™s in trouble? Israel, of course, condemned for using cluster bombs in its (unsuccessful) effort to oust Hezbollah from the villages and stop the shelling of Haifa. We have been, are and will remain sorry when Arab civilians are killed, but Israel cannot permit its citizens to be attacked in their homes simply because Hezbollah violates the rules of war and morality by using its own people as human shields. [Oddly, Amnesty International complained that older American cluster weapons used by Israel during the war did not reliably self-destruct, compared with Israelâ€™s own cluster munitions, which are said to have a much lower dud rate. Next timeâ€¦]
This is where we often dump on the State Department â€“ but not this time. DoS, as required, notified Congress that Israel â€œmay haveâ€ violated American conditions on the use of cluster bombs, but the notification appears to contain more mention of Israelâ€™s cooperation on the subject than condemnation. According to news reports, there is an internal discussion going on in both DoS and DoD. While there is a prohibition against using these munitions against civilians, Israel had warned the civilians to leave, and there is evidence that most did. Furthermore, Israel was acting in self-defense. â€œIt is important to remember the kind of war Hezbollah waged,â€ the State Department spokesman said publicly. â€œThey used innocent civilians as a way to shield their fighters.â€
A final determination about any Israeli violation of American rules for cluster bomb use (they are not banned) had not been made and Israel is unlikely to face a penalty. But the fact is that yet again Israel faces condemnation from people who ignore every Arab and/or Palestinian perversion of rules designed to protect civilians from the ravages of war, and then blame Israel when Arab civilians are hurt by those same Arab perversions. And who, by the way, have found little to complain about in the original kidnapping and continued disappearance of Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev (and Gilad Shalit from Gaza).