TEL AVIV (Jun. 28)
The army’s ranking spokesman for the war in Lebanon acknowledged that Israel has used American-made cluster bombs there but insisted they were employed against Syrian military targets, not civilians in south Lebanon.
The disclosure by Maj. Gen. (res.) Aharon Yariv, spokesman for the Israel army’s northern command, was the first official confirmation of widespread reports that Israel used the deadly weapon in Lebanon. When Premier Menachem Begin was questioned about this by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington last Tuesday, he said he did not know but would ask Defense Minister Ariel Sharon when he returned to Israel.
There have been calls by some American Congressmen for an inquiry into Israel’s use of American-made weapons in Lebanon. The cluster bomb was mentioned in particular because it is an anti-personnel weapon with devastating effects. Yariv, a former chief of military intelligence who served briefly in a Labor-led Cabinet after the Yom Kippur War and is presently director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for Strategic Studies, was called to active duty after Israel invaded Lebanon June 5.
His assignment to speak for the northern command which is conducting operations in Lebanon was said to have been in response to complaints that the army was giving out too little information, forcing the Israeli and foreign media to rely almost entirely on reports from Lebanese and Palestinian sources. Apart from the cluster bomb use, he said little at his press briefing yesterday that has not already been published locally and abroad.