Dear Secretary Albright:
The Pentagon has announced the potential sale to Israel of forty-one U.S. AGM-142D air-to-ground
missiles and is apparently negotiating another contract that includes the sale of 480 AGM-114L3
missiles. We urge you not to allow these sales to go forward until you receive assurances from Israel
that it will not use the missiles in attacks on civilian targets in Lebanon.
Israel has flaunted international humanitarian law by attacking Lebanese electrical stations three times in less than a year. In at least one case, the May 5 attack on the Bsalim electrical station, near Beirut, U.S. supplied Hellfire air-to-ground missiles were reportedly used to attack a civilian facility. We are concerned that the United States has not protested Israel's actions, and instead is poised to sell Israel missiles that could be used in future attacks. In the case of the AGM-142, the U.S. manufacturer of the missile explicitly promotes it as effective against power plants.
The Israeli attacks on Lebanese power stations in June 24, 1999, February 8, 2000, and May 5, 2000 were clear violations of international humanitarian law. The stations are civilian facilities and played no part in Hizballah's military campaign against Israel. The Israeli attacks have had no discernable effect on Hizballah's military efforts, and have only punished the Lebanese population. With each attack, large parts of Lebanon have been plunged into darkness, and the Lebanese state electrical utility has been forced to ration electricity to the entire country.
In addition to violating international law, the Israeli attacks on electrical facilities also violated the April 1996 Israel-Lebanon Ceasefire Understanding, designed to protect civilians and reduce civilian casualties on both sides of the border. The Understanding was brokered in part by the United States. Israel's actions threaten to scuttle the fragile agreement, and plunge southern Lebanon and northern Israel back into yet another violent cycle of broad attacks on the civilians on both sides of the border.
The AGM-114 "Hellfire" is a short-range, air-to-ground missile used on AH-64A Apache, AH-64D Longbow Apache, AH-1W Super Cobra, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, and Special Operations UH-60 helicopters. The first large-scale Israeli military use of Hellfire missiles was in the May 1996 "Grapes of Wrath" Operation in southern Lebanon during which many civilian structures were targeted and some 154 Lebanese civilians were killed, and another 351 civilians were injured.
The AGM-142 is a medium-range Imaging-Infra-Red (IIR) or TV-guided, air-to-ground missile. It is produced by Precision Guided Systems United States (PGSUS) Limited Liability Company of Orlando, Florida, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, and Raphael, an Israeli firm. Lockheed states that the missile is effective against "high-value ground and sea targets such as power plants, missile sites, bridges, ships, and bunkers."
Human Rights Watch holds that any state has the right to procure weapons for its legitimate self-defense, but maintains that it must also respect international humanitarian law. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases where U.S.-origin weapons appear to have been used by Israeli forces in violation of international humanitarian law. It is possible that the AGM-114 will be used again by the Israel Air Force to attack electrical facilities or other civilian targets, and that the AGM-142D has been, or will be, used by Israel to attack electrical facilities or other civilian targets. Selling additional air-to-ground missiles to Israel so soon after it blatantly violated international law would send the wrong signal to the Israeli government.
This is clearly the wrong sale at the wrong time. We urge you not to go forward with the sale of air-to-ground missiles to Israel until the U.S. receives assurances from the Israeli government that it will refrain from attacking power plants and other civilian structures in Lebanon.
Enclosed is a Human Rights Watch Backgrounder with additional information on the missiles, the proposed sales, Israel's attacks, and the legal analysis.
Human Rights Watch
Stephen D. Goose
Acting Director, Arms Division
Human Rights Watch