Israeli Cluster Bombs Sold to Azerbaijan Kill & Maim Armenian Civilians
By Harut Sassounian
Israeli journalist Yossi Melman wrote a lengthy critical article in
the Haaretz newspaper about Israel’s sale of banned deadly cluster
bombs to Azerbaijan to kill and maim innocent Armenian civilians in
Artsakh. The article, although published on Oct. 22, 2020, retains its
relevance given the fact that these cluster bombs were not only used
in last year’s Artsakh war by Azerbaijan, but may also be used in a
Amnesty International confirmed that Azerbaijan used Israeli cluster
bombs in the 2020 Artsakh war. These lethal bombs exploded in a
residential area near the city of Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh.
“The use of cluster bombs in any circumstances is banned under
international humanitarian law, so their use to attack civilian areas
is particularly dangerous and will only lead to further deaths and
injuries,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s acting chief
for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Cluster bombs are inherently
indiscriminate weapons, and their deployment in residential areas is
absolutely appalling and unacceptable.”
Melman explained that “a cluster bomb is a kind of container holding a
bundle of small bombs. The mother bomb explodes at a certain height
and, over a wide area, scatters the smaller bombs, which explode a
short time later. The munitions can be launched from cannons of
various sizes, with diameters up to 155 mm, from launchers,
helicopters and planes.” Children often pick up unexploded cluster
bombs mistaking them for toys, resulting in their death or injury.
Melman wrote that he asked Israel’s Defense Ministry, the Israel
Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry “on whether—and if so,
when—Israel supplied cluster bombs to Azerbaijan.” Not surprisingly,
he received no response.
Melman remarked that Israel’s Defense Ministry, “true to its
aggressive habits, is loath to give explanations and refuses to answer
questions it doesn’t like. It seems to have something to hide,
especially when it comes to its overly intimate relationship with
Melman asked a pertinent question: “Why is Israel arming Azerbaijan
against Armenia?” There would be a huge worldwide outcry if Armenia
were to transfer missiles to Hamas or Hezbollah to attack Israeli
citizens. Israel arming Azerbaijan is no different, but where is the
international condemnation of Israel?
Israel used cluster bombs on several occasions: In the 1973 war
against several Arab states, the wars on Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and
2006, and the Gaza war in 2008-09. Melman reported that “this led to a
condemnation by then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and to tension
in the United States, because the firing apparently violated the
restrictions on using cluster bombs when the weapon was supplied in
The Winograd Committee, formed by the Israeli government to review the
appropriateness of Israel’s military actions in Lebanon in 2006,
“harshly criticized the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas,”
according to Melman. It is illegal to use cluster bombs. It is also
illegal for the United States to sell them to Israel, which in turn
illegally sold them to Azerbaijan.
Regrettably, neither the Republic of Armenia nor the Armenian-American
community complained to the American government about Israel’s illegal
transfer of U.S. cluster bombs to Azerbaijan.
Melman reported that “in December 2008, the Convention on Cluster
Munitions was signed in Oslo. It prohibits the use, development,
manufacture, storage and transfer of cluster bombs, which it defines
as ‘a conventional ammunition that is designed to disperse or release
explosive submunitions’ from a container. Over 100 countries signed
the accord, which went into effect in 2010.”
Israel, however, refused to join the convention that banned cluster
bombs. Ironically, Israel was quick to condemn Syria for its reported
use of cluster bombs inside its own country. It is not clear why
Armenia refused to join the convention which would have given it a
stronger footing to condemn the illegal use of cluster bombs by
Azerbaijan and Turkey, neither one of which joined the convention. In
addition to selling cluster bombs to Azerbaijan, Israel also sold them
to Turkey, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Romania, Switzerland, Great
Britain, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela.
According to Melman, Azerbaijan was the largest market for Israeli
cluster bombs, along with various cannons and rocket launchers.
“Israel sold dual-purpose munitions components, which can also be used
in cluster bombs, in a way that let Israel bypass the convention.”
Melman reported that, a year ago, Israeli “activist Eli Joseph, who
takes part in efforts to ban weapons sales by Israel to dictatorial
regimes,” petitioned in vain Israel’s High Court of Justice,
“demanding that Baku and Jerusalem’s military connections be revealed.
Also, Joseph and his colleagues in the Jewish Heart organization
demonstrated in front of the Knesset against arms exports to
Azerbaijan, under the slogan ‘No to war crimes, no to the murder of
innocents.’” It is heart-warming to see righteous Israelis objecting
to the immoral actions of their government.
By selling lethal weapons to the murderous regime of Azerbaijan,
Israel has undermined its moral standing and has become an accomplice
to Azeri war crimes.