Israeli cluster bombs sold to Azerbaijan kill and maim innocent Armenian civilians

On October 13, 2020, the Armenian Unified Info Center shared this photo on Facebook reporting that 673 missiles, grenades and cluster munitions, manufactured in Israel or Turkey, have been found in Stepanakert.

Last year, 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 by Azerbaijan in last year’s Artsakh War, but may also be used in a future war.

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 Azerbaijan.”

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 1976.”

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 US 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 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.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Armenians are tired of their diaspora that is pushing the republic to the brick. The diaspora instigates the war that Armenia does not need and does not want, and cannot afford. It is because the Armenian diaspora supports the violent opposition and war. The people of Armenia are suffering squeezed between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Iran. But, the diaspora forgets, that Russia supports peace and Pashanyan and that without Russia, Armenia as a state will fail to exist. Just like Palestine without Israel.

  2. “Over 100 countries signed the accord, which went into effect in 2010.
    Israel, however, refused to join the convention that banned cluster bombs”.

    Like asking a snake not to be snake. When will Armenians ever wake up and acknowledge the massive hand that the criminal evil Zionists had in the Armenian genocide and still have till this day to basically finish off Armenia and Armenians at every turn? And unfortunately, once Zionists have you in their cross hairs they will never relent. NEVER… WAKE UP ARMENIANS! Know your enemy..

    • Have we finished hating Turks, and are looking for another enemy? Can we stop creating enemies, and start living in peace? We lost the war that we started, and that is all. A huge pill to swallow. Accept it, and move on.

    • @ Pasha We lost a war we started? Please. Those are Armenian ancient lands that were stolen via rape and murder by invading Asian Turkish tribes. Turks dont belong in Anatolia or the Caucus at all. We lost this war because of incompetent traitors like Pashinyan. BTW The young Turks were Zionist Jews pretending, funded by their European banking kin hiding in Turkish clothing all too willing to remove ALL Armenians via mass murder from their ancient homeland for their own gain. As they still do today. Maybe you should accept reality.

  3. Please ask the Ambassador of Switzerland in Washington to explain. A better question is why does Israel manufacture and sell banned cluster bombs? A question to ask Israel’s Ambassador in Washington.

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