The final report on the government and Israel Defense Forces' conduct during the Second Lebanon War, to be completed by the Winograd Commission, is to include the examination of claims that the IDF committed war crimes during last summer's fighting.
The commission, headed by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, decided to examine allegations made by left-wing Meretz party MK Zahava Gal-On that war crimes had in fact been committed during the war. Parents of soldiers who fought in the war also approached the Winograd panel with similar claims.
In response to these assertions, the chairman of the war probe said that the panel's final report would examine the war's events in view of the norms of international law.
Gal-On wrote to the Winograd panel several weeks ago, urging an inquiry be made into wartime conduct from the point of view of international law. The Meretz MK said she made the request after soldiers' parents - who had already approached Winograd - asked her to push for an investigation into whether or not there was ethical misconduct during the war.
Gal-On said serious accusations made by human rights organizations, who reported that the IDF committed war crimes and harmed the civilian population of Lebanon, strengthened her conviction that these claims must be probed.
The main accusations focus on the IDF's use of cluster bombs, which it dropped on civilian areas in southern Lebanon. The United Nations says that the unexploded bomblets have killed 30 civilians and injured at least 180 since the war ended last summer.
After the Winograd panel agreed to explore the war crimes allegation, Gal-On told Haaretz, "I think it would be appropriate not to deal only with an examination of tactical and strategic failures, but to also look into the ethical aspects."
During the war in Lebanon, Israel fired thousands of cluster bomblets, using rockets and artillery shells as delivery systems. In each rocket or shell there could be as many as several hundred bomblets, which are meant to disperse and cover an area of hundreds of square meters, exploding as they hit the ground.
According to testimony published in Haaretz, Israel fired at least 1.2 million bomblets through the use of the Multiple Launch System Rocket (MLRS), which can fire up to 12 rockets in 60 seconds. The United Nations estimates that three million such bomblets were fired into Lebanon during the war.
The Haaretz report also revealed that some 80 percent of the bomblets were made in the United States. Preliminary investigations by the U.S. Department verified suspicions that Israel violated an agreement with Washington prohibiting the firing of cluster bombs into population centers.
In response, the U.S. Senate included in its version of the Foreign Aid legislation for 2008 a clause that would restrict Israel's ability to use American military aid to purchase cluster bombs.