On December 4th 2008, in Oslo, some 45 countries – including 18 out of 26 NATO member states – signed a treaty banning the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of cluster munitions. It’s not unqualified good news: for example although the UK and FRance both signed up to the treaty, there will probably be extensive policy-level haggling about exactly what constitutes a “cluster”.
Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction, and better than no step at all.
Meanwhile, as Israeli ground forces enter Gaza, the news photos suggest the deployment of incendiary bomblets. Cluster bombs used in the 2006 invasion of Southern Lebanon continue to render the landscape unusable to the civilian population, and this report from Landmine Action gives detailed descriptions of the long-term consequences of previous cluster bomb deployment in 1978 and 1982. You may well find the details distasteful.
Now, I’m not saying that cluster bombs and incendiary bomblets are the same thing. Nor am I saying that the news sites are carrying photographic evidence of cluster bomb deployment.
What I can say is that Israel was not among the signatories to the cluster munition treaty in Oslo in December.
Over the last nine days, nearly a quarter of a million people have signed the petition here, on the Avaaz website, calling for an end to the bloodshed in Gaza.