The Bush administration has complied with Israel’s request for an expedited delivery of satellite and laser-guided bombs, the New York Times reported Saturday. Meanwhile, the reports coming in from southern Lebanon have documented that Israel is engaging in massive, indiscriminate carpet-bombing of villages and refugee camps, as well as firing missiles at bus convoys evacuating refugee families from southern Lebanon.
One US official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries of weapons within days of a request, but said special arrangements were made in this case because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities.
Pentagon officials declined to describe in detail the size and contents of the shipment to Israel, and they would not say whether the munitions were being shipped by cargo aircraft or some other means, the Times said.
But the paper noted that the expedited missile shipment will likely include as many as 100 GBU-28s, which are 5,000-pound (2,268-kilogram) laser-guided bombs intended to destroy concrete bunkers. These were part of a multi-million dollar arms package agreed upon last year between Israel and the U.S., which also provides for selling satellite-guided munitions, the newspaper said.
Meanwhile, due to the ongoing Israeli attacks on civilian populations, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has called on the United Nations to take immediate action to protect the civilian population in Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip.
"The widespread lethal impact of the Israeli armed operations on Lebanese civilians and infrastructure has to stop immediately", said Mr Federico Andreu-Guzman, deputy Secretary-General of the ICJ. The organization is extremely concerned by the apathy of the international community and the inactivity of key governments toward the ongoing Israeli military actions in Lebanon as well as in Gaza, and the widespread killings and suffering of people. The ICJ calls on the Security Council – or the General Assembly if the Security Council is unable to come to an agreement – to take immediate and effective measures to stop the military escalation in which civilians have already paid a huge price.
"Such measures may include the dispatch of a new UN multinational force or a drastic strengthening of the mandate of UNFIL, and a substantive enlargement of its personnel", added Mr Andreu-Guzman. "Time is of the essence, and any further procrastination by the international community and the UN would be irresponsible."
For the past eleven days and nights, the Israeli air forces have destroyed countless civilian buildings, infrastructure and means of transportation in operations that have killed more 300 people – most of them civilians – and wrecked havoc on Lebanese cities, harbours, airports and other infrastructure, leading to the displacement of more than half a million people. Appalled by the impact of the ruthless military operations, the ICJ recalls that Israel is required, under the statutes of the Geneva Conventions to which it is a signatory, to unconditionally respect the lives and security of civilians and abide by international law.
Under the law of war, intentional attacks against the civilian population as such or against civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, as well as the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity, constitute war crimes. The wanton destruction of the Beirut airport and civilian aircrafts are blatant examples of these destructions. Similarly, the bombing of undefended towns, villages and dwellings that are not military objectives, as well as the intentional attacks that will knowingly cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians also constitute war crimes for which individuals can be held criminally responsible.
"While Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself against hostage-taking and the launching of rockets by the Hezbollah over Israeli territory, this right is not unlimited and is subject to the restrictions of international law," said Mr Andreu-Guzman. "Indeed, the disproportionate and indiscriminate reactions of the Israeli military are reprisals against the civilian population and thus amount to collective punishment. Collective punishments constitute a war crime under international law", added Mr Andreu-Guzman.
Within the Bush administration, however, there appears to be no concern about Israel’s violations of international law, and the approval to expedite the arms shipment was made smoothly, with no objections raised by anyone, said a high-level official speaking anonymously to the New York Times Saturday.