Some background on the Shebaa Farms

Some interesting details on the Shebaa Farms issue from Nicholas Blanford in The National, an English-language paper published in Abu Dhabi :

“Securing the liberation of the Shebaa Farms has been a cornerstone of Fouad Siniora’s diplomacy since 2005 when he headed his first government. Mr Siniora said he believes that an Israeli withdrawal from the rugged mountainside would end Israel’s occupation of Lebanese territory, thus undermining Hizbollah’s rationale for retaining its weapons for resistance. Although Mr Siniora energetically marketed his scheme to US officials, Washington adopted an ambivalent view, preferring to side with Israel’s refusal to hand back the farms without any guarantees that Hizbollah would disarm.
However, the new US interest in promoting an Israeli withdrawal from the farms apparently stems from a willingness by Israel to yield the territory in the context of continuing indirect negotiations with Syria and the hope that the peace talks can be extended to Lebanon. ‘From the onset of this government, which calls for the freedom of the Shebaa Farms … this topic has been a priority’, Mr Siniora said last week. ‘Israel must withdraw without any direct or indirect negotiations and without any contact between Lebanon and Israel’. He said the fate of Hizbollah’s weapons would be discussed once the new government is formed.

“The Shebaa Farms were occupied by Israel after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war in which the Golan Heights were seized and later annexed. In May 2000, the United Nations ruled that the Shebaa Farms was Syrian – not Lebanese – territory occupied by Israel and its fate was subject to future Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Lebanon rejected the finding and in Oct 2000 Hizbollah launched a resistance campaign of sporadic hit-and-run raids against Israeli troops in the farms. After the end of the 2006 Hizbollah-Israel war, the United Nations agreed to re-examine Lebanon’s case for claiming the Shebaa Farms as a means of further cementing the cessation of hostilities. It is now widely accepted that Lebanon’s case is valid, particularly as Syria has backed Lebanon’s claim, strengthening the proposal for the farms to be placed temporarily under UN jurisdiction until Lebanon and Syria demarcate their joint border.

“Although the occupation of the Shebaa Farms is seen as the main justification for Hizbollah’s continued armed status, there are several other outstanding disputes that the Shiite party occasionally raises – releasing all Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons as well as receiving maps of old Israeli minefields in south Lebanon and the co-ordinates of cluster bomb strikes in the 2006 war. These two grievances could be resolved in the coming days or weeks, especially with speculation that a prisoner swap between Hizbollah and Israel is imminent.

“More arcane disputes include the return of the so-called ‘Seven Villages’ and Lebanon’s objection to three points along the Blue Line, the UN-delineated boundary corresponding to the international border between Lebanon and Israel that was drawn up in 2000 and behind which Israel was obliged to withdraw to fulfil UN resolutions. The three anomalies along the Blue Line where Israel gained some Lebanese territory is not regarded as a genuine excuse for Hizbollah to keep its arms because the line is not the border, just a temporary and technical measure by which to gauge Israel’s troop withdrawal. Any differences over the delineation of the 1922 border would be discussed at peace talks between Lebanon and Israel”…

The full report by Nicholas Blanford can be read here /a>.

Israel announces stand-down in tension with Syria

Last summer’s Israeli invasion of Lebanon has provoked year-long speculation about a repeat performance this year. Some commentators have recently said that summer lasts a few more months here than in other places of the world, so, they said, the danger still persists.

Today, Israel announced that it is moving its troops — at least, it is rotating them — out of the Golan Heights that it seized from Syria in the aftermath of the June 1967 war. [In 1980, in an apparent fit of pique, Israel announced that it had “annexed” the Golan Heights, and it offered Israeli citizenship to its residents — not all of whom accepted the offer.]

The AP reported that “The decision by Israel’s military followed months of growing tensions along the frontier and concerns that the escalation could result in war. Over the summer, media reports of impending war alternated with announcements by Syrian and Israeli leaders that they had no interest in hostilities. The Israeli officials said Syria’s military has now reduced its war readiness, but offered no details because the exact steps taken by the Syrians are classified. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the information to the press. Israeli forces scheduled to hold maneuvers on the Golan Heights would now be moved away from the border to the country’s south to further reduce friction, the officials said, and the army’s war-readiness status on the Israel-Syria border is now considered over … Syria demands that Israel return the heights in return for peace, but negotiations between the sides last broke down in 2000 over the extent of an Israeli withdrawal.”
Read the full AP report here.

Haaretz is reporting that “The IDF had previously increased its training exercises in the Golan Heights since the end of the Second Lebanon War last summer.”
Read the Haaretz story here.

Continue reading Israel announces stand-down in tension with Syria

SG's letter to the Security Council on Lebanon

Here are some excerpts from the SG’s Report S/2006/933, Letter dated 1 December 2006 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council:

“I have the honour to submit a factual update to my report of 12 September 2006 on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006)(S/2006/780), in particular on the operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and other relevant United Nations activities.

Israel continued to withdraw its forces from southern Lebanon, in coordination with UNIFIL. The IDF retain a presence only in the northern part of the village of Ghajar. Given the specific status of the village of Ghajar, which is divided by the Blue Line, UNIFIL is working with the LAF and the IDF to finalize the withdrawal of the IDF from the remaining area inside Lebanon and set up temporary security arrangements for the part of the village of Ghajar inside Lebanese territory.

In parallel with the withdrawal of Israeli forces, Lebanon deployed, in coordination with UNIFIL, four brigades of its armed forces throughout the south in the areas vacated by the IDF, including along the Blue Line. The deployment of the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] throughout the south for the first time in decades down to the Blue Line is a most notable achievement and a key stabilizing factor. The LAF, assisted by UNIFIL, have taken some specific steps to ensure that the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line is free of armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and those of UNIFIL. Specifically, the LAF have established a considerable number of permanent positions and checkpoints and commenced patrols.

UNIFIL and the LAF have seen sporadic evidence of the presence of unauthorized armed personnel, assets and/or weapons. On one occasion, a UNIFIL demining team was challenged by two Hizbollah personnel in combat uniform carrying AK47 rifles. UNIFIL notified the LAF, who arrested three suspects the following day. Since early September, there have been 13 instances where UNIFIL came across unauthorized arms or related materiel in its area of operation. The two most noteworthy were the discovery of 17 Katyushas and several improvised explosive devices in Rachaya El-Foukhar and, in the general area of Bourhoz, of a weapons cache consisting of seven missiles, three rocket launchers and substantial amounts of ammunition. On all of these occasions, UNIFIL informed the LAF, who took prompt action either to confiscate or destroy the materials.

In the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line, there are, in addition, Palestinian armed elements largely confined to the refugee camps.

The Interim Maritime Task Force, under the lead of the Italian Navy, operated in support of the Lebanese Navy to secure Lebanese territorial waters until 15 October, when the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force became operational. The latter has questioned and confirmed the identity of some 950 ships, detecting one suspicious boat, which, when searched, was found to be smuggling cigarettes, and rendering assistance to one vessel in distress.

The Lebanese authorities reported that they had undertaken a variety of measures to secure their borders and entry points in order to prevent the illegal entry into Lebanon of arms and related materiel. However, the United Nations continues to receive reports of illegal arms smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border, but has not been able to verify such reports.

The second phase of the augmentation of UNIFIL is now under way, and involves the further deployment of four mechanized infantry battalions from France, Indonesia, Italy and Nepal and one infantry unit each from Malaysia and Qatar. The French composite battalion is assuming the role of quick reaction force. Finland, Ireland and Turkey have deployed engineer units and another is expected from Portugal. China will deploy one level-2 hospital, in addition to its existing engineering company. The Dominican Republic and the United Republic of Tanzania are expected to deploy military police companies.

As at 28 November, UNIFIL troop strength was 10,480 all ranks. The completion of the augmentation is expected in December, when UNIFIL force strength will reach approximately 11,500 ground troops, 1,750 naval personnel and 51 military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization. With the deployment by the LAF of four brigades to south Lebanon, these numbers are deemed to be sufficient to execute the mandate.

The regular UNIFIL supply chain was recently re-established, thus enabling the Force to discontinue the air/sea bridge between Cyprus and Lebanon, which had been in place to maintain UNIFIL operability during the IDF naval and air blockade.

Two sector headquarters, West and East, have been established in Tibnin and Marjayoun, respectively… In addition, a quick reaction force will be based in Frun. UNIFIL air assets, provided and operated by Italy, are based at the Force headquarters. The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force is operating in Lebanese territorial waters.

A UNIFIL office for coordination and joint planning with the LAF, the Ministry of Defence and other relevant Lebanese authorities is being set up in Beirut.

Another UNIFIL office will be established in Tel Aviv for liaison and coordination with IDF headquarters, the Ministry of Defence and other relevant Israeli authorities. A UNIFIL liaison office, based in the IDF Northern Command, is fully operational. The Office of Political Affairs, comprising also civil affairs and public information, is being augmented within the Force headquarters and will staff the liaison offices and also deploy at the sector level.

The Strategic Military Cell for UNIFIL has been established at United Nations Headquarters and is operational.

I continue to make the unconditional release of the captured Israeli soldiers and the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel a top priority. The facilitator appointed by me specifically to address these vital issues is currently engaged in an intensive effort with all parties to reach a resolution.

Since my last report, the full scope of contamination from unexploded cluster munitions has come to light…

Israel has yet to provide UNIFIL with the detailed firing data on its use of cluster munitions that I referred to in my previous report. The provision of this data, which would be in keeping with the spirit of Protocol V of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, which came into force recently, would significantly assist operators on the ground to mitigate the threat to innocent civilians. I reiterate my expectation for the provision of these data.

I would note that Israel confirmed in a letter dated 14 November 2006 from its Charge d’Affaires that it had handed over to the United Nations all pre-2000 minefield records available for southern Lebanon and the area north of the Litani River.

However, I regret to inform you that four deminers working for the United Nations mine clearance programme in south Lebanon have been injured over the past few days, after they stepped on Israeli-manufactured anti-personnel mines near the village of Deir Mimas. As this area was considered safe prior to the conflict, there is the possibility that new anti-personnel landmines were laid during the recent conflict. While investigations on those incidents are still ongoing, I want to reiterate that the United Nations condemns the use of all anti-personnel mines and calls upon any party that laid such mines during the recent conflict to provide information as to where they have been laid to prevent similar tragic incidents occurring in the future.

Further to the Council’s request to me in paragraph 10 of its resolution 1701 (2006) to develop proposals for delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border was disputed or uncertain,including by dealing with the Shabaa Farms area, I have appointed a senior cartographer to assume the lead on reviewing relevant material and developing an accurate territorial definition of the Shabaa Farms area. The cartographer is in the process of conducting such an exercise for the purpose of any further diplomatic activity that could be carried out by the United Nations as regards this issue.

I am heartened to note that both Lebanon and Israel have indicated their readiness to cooperate in this exercise.

A permanent solution of this issue remains contingent upon the delineation of the border between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, in fulfilment of resolutions 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006). At the same time, and in view of the repeated Syrian statements indicating that the Shabaa Farms area is Lebanese, I continue to take careful note of the alternative path suggested by the Government of Lebanon in its seven-point plan, namely, placing the Shabaa Farms under United Nations jurisdiction until permanent border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them is settled. The United Nations looks forward to reporting further on this matter in early 2007.

UN Security Council welcomes appointment of cartographer to define Shebaa Farms area

In a presidential statement — which has less weight than a resolution — the members of the UN Security Council welcomed the SG’s appointment of a cartographer (map maker) to “to review relevant material and develop an accurate territorial definition of the Shabaa Farms area”

This area, on the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has been the cause of tensions and more since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000.

Following Israel’s withdrawal, the UN SG determined that the Shebaa Farms belongs to Syria (which no longer controls the area), despite the fact that both Syria and Lebanon said that Shebaa Farms was Lebanese.  Unwilling if not unable to backtrack, the SG’s appointment of a cartographer to study the issue means that no decision will be forthcoming soon.

Israel’s attack on Lebanon this past summer was provoked by Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers in this area.

Is UN about to backtrack on Lebanese border?

The UN should never have gotten into the business of demarcating borders.

The first time was after Iraq had confirmed its surrender by accepting UN Security Council Resolution 687, following its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and its expulsion by the U.S.-led Desert Storm coalition in April 1991. Under the terms of that resolution, the UN demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait border, possibly laying the groundwork for a future conflict.

The second time the UN got into this boundary demarcation business was after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 — but at the time the UNSG very pointedly stated that the Organization was “not engaged in a border demarcation exercise”.

The UN said they were just trying to determine the line behind which Israel must withdraw On 16 June 2000.

UNSG Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that he was “in a position to confirm that Israeli forces have withdrawn from Lebanon in compliance with resolution 425 (1978)”.

To do this, of course, Kofi Annan had to know more or less what the frontier was, between Lebanon and Israel.

And there, he ran into difficulty.

To overcome the problem, the SG proposed that the line separating the UNIFIL (UN Peacekeeping force in Lebanon) area of operations from that of the UN Disengagement Observer force (UNDOF) operating in the Golan Heights “be adopted for the purpose of confirming Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon”.

After an exercise involving cartographers, engineers, and painting stones and other markers with “UN blue” paint, this withdrawal line is now known as the “blue line”.

A little patch of territory along the Syrian-Lebanese borders, known as the Shebaa Farms, had meanwhile become a big problem.

The United Nations determined that the Shebaa Farms region was territory that belonged to Syria, and put it within UNDOF’s Golan Heights zone.

The United Nations did so despite the claims by both Lebanon and Syria — although to varying degrees, it has to be admitted –that this bit of territory is in fact Lebanese.

The UN’s high-handed actions, based on a certain amount of exasperation with Syria, had something to do with the conflict that broke out last summer between Hizbullah and Israel, and the Israeli attack on Lebanon in July and August.

There was more than a little diplomatic sniggering, both in 2000, and again this past summer, that Syria was just slyly throwing a wrench into the works in order to advance its own interests, and using Lebanon in the process — and that Lebanon was not strong enough to stand up for itself.

But, in a revised balance-of-power calculation, there is some indication that the UN might now be preparing to consider some diplomatic adjustment. But Kofi Annan is being very cautious — and it now appears that this might not happen on his watch, before his term of office comes to an end at midnight on 31 December.

Kofi Annan explained in 2000 that no international boundary agreement has been concluded between Lebanon and Syria, and that his decision was based on a post-World War I deal between colonial powers Britain and France, that adjusted the border between the mandates they operated in the Middle East. (In this deal, Britain gave a small piece of its Palestine Mandate to France’s Syrian Mandate, in exchange for France’s acquiescence in Britain’s “administrative” separation of Transjordan from Palestine.)

Kofi Annan noted that the 1923 British-French deal was reaffirmed in the Israeli-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement signed on 23 March 1949, which was designed to settle the fighting that broke out upon Britain’s withdrawal from Palestine and Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.

In the June 1967 war, however, Israeli Forces overran the Syrian Golan Heights, and then, in a fit of pique in 1980, Israel announced it had annexed the Golan Heights — but the UN has declared this annexation, which would mean the illegitimate acquisition of territory by force, null and void.

So, the particular issue here is that if Shebaa farms were Lebanese, Israel would have had to withdraw, and the UN would have to confirm Israel’s withdrawal.

If it is Syrian, well, then Israel can just stay put in the Shebaa farms until there is some movement in the non-existent Israel-Syrian peace process.

For Israel, the Shebaa farms (which Israelis call the Mount Dov region, named after an IDF officer killed while Israel was constructing roads to what it called a permanent post there), on the slopes of Mount Hermon, is strategically important for Israel’s security because it dominates the water sources for the Jordan River (including the Hasbani River).

PLO forces operated against Israel from this region, until their expulsion from southern Lebanon in Israel’s 1982 invasion. More recently, Hizbollah has claimed that their resistance activities in southern Lebanon were legitimized by the continued Israeli occupation of this bit of Lebanese territory.

The cease-fire that was brokered in August to end Israel’s attack upon Lebanon, agreed in UN Security Council resolution, refers to a Lebanese Government “seven-point plan” on the Shebaa Farms, in which the Lebanese Government proposed putting the Shebaa farms area under UN jurisdiction.

Resolution 1701 asked the UNSG to develop proposals for demarcation of the boundary in areas that are disputed or uncertain, including the Shebaa farms. The SG’s proposals, which were to have been delivered within 30 days of the 14 August cease-fire, were delivered in a “status report” to the UN Security Council on Friday 1 December.

Reuters’ Senior UN Correspondent Evelyn Leopold reports that Annan told the Security Council that “he had sent a senior cartographer to review the material on the Shebaa Farms area, a strip of land occupied by Israel which Lebanon claims as its own but the United Nations says is part of Syria. He said he took ‘careful note’ but gave no recommendations on Lebanon’s proposal to put the Shebaa Farms under UN jurisdiction until a permanent border was delineated.”

Leopold also reports that “The secretary-general said that he continued to receive reports of illegal arms smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border but has been unable to verify them. Still, his envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, said earlier this month he had evidence of the smuggling but was unable to reveal his sources.”

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, however, reported last week in an article authored by Ze’ev Schiff that Israel was the source of intelligence information that UNIFIL acted on: “UNIFIL intelligence has led to the discovery of a number of Katyusha and ammunition dumps in south Lebanon, and their subsequent destruction… Israel is said to have been the source of the intelligence regarding the munitions dumps. The units involved in the searches are Belgian, Spanish and French.”

(Schiff added that “Despite this success, thousands of Katyusha rockets are still being hidden, especially in the larger villages in the Tyre region.” And he wrote that “Senior Israel Air Force officers met recently with the heads of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on the issue, and it was decided to establish an Israel-UNIFIL coordinating body.”)


Expert Commission Reports to UN Human Rights Council on Israeli Attack on Lebanon

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has received and is discussing a report on last summer’s Israeli attack upon Lebanon from a Commission of independent experts, who say that: “Where the attacks against civilians or their property were direct and deliberate, where abductions, transfers and detentions in Israel of civilians occurred, it can be consider that there is a violation of the right to life, the right to property, the interdiction of inhuman, humiliating and degrading treatment. Moreover, these deliberate strikes against civilians amount in fact to summary and extra-judicial executions of persons (suspected or assimilated to terrorists-enemies). It not only violated the fundamental rights of these persons (right to life, right to personal security, fair trial, non- discrimination) but also constitutes a very negative State practice, extremely disturbing for contemporary legal culture”.

The Commission reported that “generally, respect for the principle of humanity and humanitarian considerations was absent during the conflict”. And it said it was “convinced that damage inflicted on some infrastructure was done for the sake of destruction”.

The Commission also said it was convinced that the Israeli bombings (on July 13 and July 15) of certain specific fuel storage tanks at the Jiyyeh electrical power plant, located near the seashore, was “premeditated”. The Commission’s report stated that “the strike was directly aimed at those tanks that had been filled in the days preceding the attacks. No missile was directed at empty tanks, nor at the main generator and machinery, which are just a few meters away from the storage tanks. The Commission called the oil spill “an ecological disaster for the maritime environment on the Lebanese coast and beyond”, with devastating and long-lasting effect.

While the Commission found that “there was evidence of Hezbollah using UNIFIL and Observer Group Lebanon posts as deliberate shields for the firing of their rockets”, it nevertheless “found no justification for the 30 direct attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on United Nations positions, including those which resulted in deaths and injury to protected United Nations personnel”. It said it did not see how Israel could possibly justify these direct attacks.

Four unarmed United Nations observers were killed by IDF fire at the Khiyam base. A UNIFIL staff member and his wife were also killed in an Israeli air strike on their apartment building in Tyre.

The Commission also stated that “It is significant that, towards the end of the conflict, after the ceasefire had been announced, there was a dramatic increase in IDF direct attacks on UNIFIL positions”.

The Commission reported that, “according to Government estimates, nearly one quarter of the population was displaced between 12 July and 14 August, with approximately 735,000 seeking shelter within Lebanon and 230,000 abroad. Much of the displacement in Lebanon was the result, either direct or indirect, of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian property and infrastructure, as well as the climate of fear and panic among the civilian population caused by the warnings, threats and attacks by IDF”.

The Commission reported that it had come to the conclusion that IDF did not give effective warning as required under international humanitarian law.

And the Commission noted that Lebanese authorities have concluded that the conflict resulted in 1,191 deaths and 4,409 injured.

One third of the casualties and deaths were children.

Projections made by the UN’s World Health Organization show that a large percentage of the population suffer from moderate or severe mental psychological stress, and this obviously includes children.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Commission found that active hostilities only took place between Israel and Hezbollah fighters, and that no indication that the Lebanese Armed Forces actively participated in the hostilities that ensued.

The Commission noted that in Lebanon, Hezbollah is a legally recognized political party, whose members are both nationals and a constituent part of its population, and which has duly elected representatives in the Parliament and is part of the Government; and it therefore integrates and participates in the constitutional organs of the State.

The Commission determined that “while Hezbollah’s illegal action under international law of 12 July 2006 provoked an immediate violent reaction by Israel, it is clear that, albeit the legal justification for the use of armed force (self-defence), Israel’s military actions very quickly escalated from a riposte to a border incident into a general attack against the entire Lebanese territory. Israel’s response was considered by the Security Council in its resolution 1701(2006) as [an] ‘offensive military operation’. These actions have the characteristics of an armed aggression, as defined by General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX)”.

And, the Commission reported, “the conduct of Israel demonstrates an overall lack of respect for the cardinal principles regulating the conduct of armed conflict, most notably distinction, proportionality and precaution”.

International Responsibility

In certain cases, such as the deliberate attacks against civilians and civilian properties, attacks against Red Cross ambulances and other protected objects, and the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions, the violations committed by IDF could qualify as serious violations of the laws and customs of war and war crimes.

Israel infringed its international law, international humanitarian law and human rights obligations. As a consequence, the question of its international responsibility arises. It is worth recalling that the obligation of a State responsible for an internationally wrongful act to put an end to that act is well established in general international law, and the existence of such a duty has been reiterated by the International Court of Justice.

The Government of Israel was required to respect and ensure respect at all times for international humanitarian law and human rights by its armed forces. These violations were not only committed by members of IDF but were part of a plan or policy.

The declarations of high military commanders that ‘we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years’, and that ‘once inside Lebanon everything is legitimate’, bears this out.

The conduct of military operations is regulated by a universally recognized body of legal prescriptions. It is also well settled that serious violations of international humanitarian law entail individual criminal responsibility. In this regard, first, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I constitute war crimes and their violations entail individual responsibility. Second, customary international law also provides for individual criminal responsibility for such breaches as well as for violations of the laws and customs of war and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Third, it must also be underlined that violations of a number of core human rights equally entail under the relevant international human rights instruments and customary international law individual responsibility.

The Commission’s report contains many indications of conduct that constitute serious international humanitarian law and human rights violations for which individual responsibility can be imputed. These entail an obligation on the part of Israel to put to an end to serious breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights committed and to prosecute those responsible. In this regard, the international community has its part of responsibility.

It is important that continued attention be given and efforts be undertaken by the Human Rights Council to ensure justice for the victims and accountability for international humanitarian law and human rights violations. If not, the culture of impunity will not be brought to an end.

The Commission recommended that the UN’s Human Rights Council should establish a follow-up procedure for the rebuilding of Lebanon and above all for ensuring that there will be reparations for victims among the Lebanese civilian population.

And the Commission recommended that the Human Rights Council should take an initiative to promote urgent action to include cluster munitions to the list of weapons banned under international law. It said that “there is ample evidence pointing to a significant increase in the intensity of the overall bombardment including cluster munitions in the last 72 hours of the conflict, including the period after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). OCHA [the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] affirms that 90 per cent of all cluster bombs and their sub-munitions were fired by IDF into south Lebanon during these last 72 hours of the conflict. For example, cluster bombardments were particularly heavy in and around the Tibnin hospital grounds, especially on 13 August when 2,000 civilians were seeking shelter there”.

The Commission said that Human Rights Council should also ask competent bodies to take a look at the legality of some weapons particularly indiscriminate to the civilian population, including weapons which use depleted uranium.

It also urged the Human Rights Council to strongly call upon Israel to immediately hand over to UNIFIL and the Government of Lebanon full and detailed information on the use, and of all coordinates of cluster munitions launched in Lebanon.

The three members of the Commission, who were appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, wera Joao Clemente Baena Soares (Brazil), Mohamed Chande Othman (United Republic of Tanzania) and Stelios Perrakis (Greece); they were chosen on the basis of their expertise in international humanitarian law and human rights law. They visited Lebanon twice, from 23 September through 7 October, and again from 17 through 21 October.


During the Commission’s investigations allegations were made concerning the use by the IDF of a range of weapons or, more accurately, ammunition which might be considered illegal.

Such allegations were made in relation to the use of depleted uranium, white phosphorous and fuel air explosives.

Some witnesses also brought to the Commission’s attention injuries they described as abnormal, e.g. completely charred but intact corpses, or human bodies that apparently simply vaporized.

Cluster Bombs

The extent of the use cluster munitions by IDF goes beyond that required to interdict their opponents and points more towards a punitive use of and points more towards a punitive use of [the] weapon. The particular military use of these munitions lies in the wide area the munitions can cover. It provides the military with a very effective weapon against targets such as troops in the open or in defensive positions, artillery batteries, and concentrations of vehicles or tanks. However, the inherent area coverage of cluster munitions calls for clear separation between military targets and civilians or their property otherwise the latter will suffer the indiscriminate consequences of their use. Account must also be taken of the known failure rates of such ammunition which can result in excessive and disproportionate harm to civilians after the conflict. Although there are ongoing efforts to ban cluster munitions, for example under the umbrella of the Conventional Weapons Convention, unfortunately there is no prohibition under international humanitarian law on their use at present. The key issue in relation to the law and their use by the military rests on the known wide dispersal pattern of the cluster munitions on the ground and hence the fact that they cannot be targeted precisely. As a result it is often difficult, if not impossible, for the military to discriminate between military and civilian objects when the weapons are used in or near populated areas. The pertinent issue therefore is how the munitions are used. Considering the indiscriminate manner in which cluster munitions were used, in the absence of any reasonable explanation from IDF, the Commission finds that their use was excessive and not justified by any reason of military necessity. When all is considered, the Commission finds that these weapons were used deliberately to turn large areas of fertile agricultural land into ‘no go’ areas for the civilian population. Furthermore, in view of the foreseeable high dud rate, their use amounted to a de facto scattering of anti-personnel mines across wide tracts of Lebanese land. The use of cluster munitions by IDF was of no military advantage and was in contradiction to the principles of distinction and proportionality. These were part of a widespread and systematic targeting of civilians and their property, thus causing great suffering, injury and death during and after the conflict.

The extent of the use of the munitions particularly during the last 72 hours of the conflict, points toward a plan by IDF.

Depleted Uranium

The IDF has within its arsenal of weapons munitions that can be equipped with depleted uranium warheads. It is therefore possible that depleted uranium (DU) munitions were used by the IDF during the conflict.

However, the preliminary findings of the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research, which carried out a detailed field survey of several bomb sites, concluded that there was no indication of depleted uranium having been used in the conflict, with the caveat that some additional field work was still necessary to draw a final conclusion.

White phosporous

White phosphorous is designed for use by artillery, mortars or tanks to put down an instant smoke screen to cover movement in, for example, an attack or flanking manoeuvre.

The phosphorous ignites on contact with air and gives off a thick smoke. If the chemical touches skin it will continue to burn until it reaches the bone unless deprived of oxygen.

It is not designed as an incendiary weapon per se, for example in the same way as a flame thrower or the petroleum jelly substance used in napalm.

The Commission received a number of reports concerning the use of this type of ammunition.

In addition, the Commission was told about and witnessed a number of sites where the possible use of white phosphorous had occurred, among others, at Marwaheen on 16 July during the gathering of the civilians in the village prior to their evacuation under UNIFIL supervision. This was witnessed by civilians concerned and interviewed by the Commission. It was also confirmed by UNIFIL officers on the scene that 12 white phosphorous rounds were fired directly at the civilians.

The Commission did not find evidence concerning the use of incendiary weapons, such as flame throwers or napalm.

Dense inert metal explosives (DIME)

Various media have reported on the possible use by IDF of Dense inert metal explosives (DIME), a new weapon, in Lebanon.

[The weapon can be launched from drones and is said to produce microscopic particles which cannot be seen by x-ray machines. It is reputed to comprise a carbon-fiber casing filled with tungsten powder and explosives. In the explosion, tungsten particles are spread at very high temperature causing death.]

It was reported that Israeli Air Force Major General Yitzhak Ben-Israel had described the weapon as being designed “to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons”.

It was brought to the Commission’s attention by a number of expert medical witnesses that some of the casualties had suffered from inexplicable burn injuries not witnessed before. These witnesses had extensive experience of war wounds from previous conflicts; their testimony is therefore of some relevance.

IDF have strongly denied the use of such weapons.

If they were effectively used, the Commission finds that they would be illegal under international humanitarian law. Protocol I of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (hereafter ‘the Conventional Weapons Convention’), to which Israel is a signatory, prohibits the use of any weapon the primary effect of which is to injure by fragments which cannot be detected by X-rays.

The Commission was unable in the time available to thoroughly investigate the claims. However, in drawing attention to this weapon and in particular to the expert witnesses’ testimonies, it finds that the possible use of such weapons in Lebanon should be the subject of further investigation.

Fuel-air explosives

There were some allegations from witnesses that IDF used fuel-air explosives during the conflict. This was particularly the case in relation to the destruction of property in South Beirut.

[These are weapons that disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion. The overpressure so produced flattens all objects within close proximity of the centre of the explosion.]

The weapon is designed for targets such as minefields, armour, and aircraft parked in the open and vehicles. Its vacuum effect is particularly useful against hardened bunkers.

The Commission found no evidence of its use for such purposes.

There were some reports that Israel employed fuel-air explosives to clear areas suspected to be planted with improvised explosive device (IED) and mines placed by Hezbollah in South Lebanon.

The fuel-air countermine called ‘carpet’ is employed by the Israeli corps of engineers. The carpet uses small rockets fired from a stand-off range, deploying highly explosive aerosol over the suspected area. The explosion of this mixture develops high pressure impulse which effectively kills fuses or sets off explosive devices in the affected area.

Booby Traps

The Commission found no evidence of booby traps having been left in place by IDF .

None of the weapons known to have been used by IDF are illegal per se under international humanitarian law. However, the way in which the weapons were used in some cases transgresses the law.

The Commission’s findings, detailed earlier in this report in relation to the direct targeting of civilian objects, infrastructure and protected property is at odds with the apparent interpretation of IDF and the application of the principle of distinction. The vast destruction of civilian objects throughout the Lebanon, but especially in the South where some villages were virtually completely destroyed indicates that weapons systems were not used in a professional manner despite assurances from IDF that legal advice was being taken in the planning process.


+ On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets at Israeli military positions and border villages while another Hezbollah unit crossed the Blue Line, killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two.

+ From 13 July 2006, the IDF attacked Lebanon by air, sea and land, including a number of incursions on Lebanese territory by Israeli ground forces.

+ The Government of Lebanon decided on 27 July 2006 that it would extend its authority over its territory in an effort to ensure that there would not be any weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese State.

+ Over the course of the several weeks, Lebanon frequently pleaded for the Security Council to call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

+ On 11 August 2006, the Security Council at UNHQ/NY adopted resolution 1701 (2006) calling inter alia for a ‘full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations, and emphasizing the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers’.

+ On the same day, the UN Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, called for the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry.

+ Both parties to the conflict agreed on a ceasefire, which took effect on 14 August 2006 at 0800 hours.

+ The Lebanese Army began deploying in southern Lebanon on 17 August 2006. The aerial blockade was lifted on 6 September and the maritime blockade was lifted on 7 September 2006.

+ On 1 October, the Israeli army reported that it had completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon, information that was confirmed by UNIFIL.

The situation related to Shabaa Farms remained the same.”