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Here’s how it works.
The bomblets, while lethal to people, are mostly ineffective against brick or stone walls and armor. Thus a hit on or near an unarmored rocket launcher will most likely kill the launcher’s operators and thus disable the launcher, but even a direct hit on a fully encapsulated armored launcher will merely make a horrible noise, and probably leave the operators, protected inside the armored operating area, pretty much unharmed and able to continue firing rockets. Therefore, the use of air-to-ground cluster bombs against armored rocket launchers is doomed to be far less effective than would be the use of conventional air-to-ground rockets. Israel’s choice of cluster bombs instead of conventional rockets meant that more Hezbollah rocket launcher crews would survive Israeli attacks and be able to continue launching rockets into Israel, killing more Israelis.
So why did Israel make such a counter-productive choice? Because Hezbollah intentionally stationed it launchers in places that would put nearby civilians in danger, just as Hamas did in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah rocket launchers on the roof tops of hospitals and schools created severe and imminent danger to the civilians inside of those buildings, because Israeli attacks with conventional missiles would be likely to penetrate the roof and kill innocent Arabs below. Even a direct hit on a launcher would endanger Arabs in the lower floors because the explosion could cause the roof to collapse, dropping the launcher and its exploding rockets directly into the hospital wards and classrooms of the buildings beneath the Hezbollah launchers.
With cluster bombs, Hezbollah terrorists operating the launchers might be killed, but the roof would not collapse and the civilians below would be unharmed. But if the rocket launchers were armored, they could continue to bombard Israeli civilians, because, protected by armor, the Hezbollah operators would be unharmed in the spray of bomblets. Similarly, Hezbollah stationed many rocket launchers in narrow alleys of dense residential areas. Conventional rocket attacks would have destroyed most launchers but carried the risk of penetrating the walls of nearby homes and killing civilians. Moreover, a direct hit from a conventional rocket could ignite the unfired munitions of the Hezbollah launcher, sending them exploding into nearby buildings of the civilian population. Cluster bomblets, however, could destroy launchers in the streets, but would not penetrate brick or stone walls, and would not ignite the unfired rockets. Israel intentionally used ordnance that was less effective against enemy positions, but safer for Arab civilians. As a result, many rocket launchers survived Israeli air-to-ground missile attacks and continued bombarding Israeli civilians. This was the price that Israel chose to pay in order to avoid harming Arab civilians.
But Israel went even further. After the war, Israel published a map identifying the Hezbollah positions which sustained cluster-bomb attacks, so that the UN and the Lebanese army could search those areas for unexploded bomblets and thus reduce risk to Arab civilians living in those areas.
Israel behaved in a similar manner before and during its invasion of the Gaza Strip. Prior to the invasion, Israel dropped tens of thousands of leaflets into Gaza, telling the civilians to leave what would soon become the combat zones within the Gaza Strip. Israel also broke into Hamas radio broadcasts to announce the imminent invasion and tell civilians to flee. Then, hours before the operation, hundreds of Israeli Arabic-speaking technicians prepared recorded phone messages that were dialed into the phones of more than 160,000 Arabs in the Gaza Strip, warning them to flee in advance of the invasion. By doing so, the IDF forewarned Hamas as to when and where the combat would be.
No nation anywhere in the world, throughout all of world history, has ever done so much to protect enemy civilians: and all this while Hamas and Hezbollah intentionally put their own civilians in harm’s way, and boasted about it (see here, here and here). These terrorists use their own as human shields precisely because they know that the IDF will do whatever it can to avoid harming civilians, even to the detriment of its own operations, even when it endangers its own soldiers.
Hamas and Hezbollah know what Israel’s detractors deny: no army anywhere in the world, at any time in history, has ever done what Israel does routinely to protect enemy civilians even at the cost of endangering its own, military and civilian, and reducing the effectiveness of its military in combat.
Colonel Kemp is correct.
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