Israelis admit use of banned shells

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Jerusalem (Reuter) - Israeli forces that clashed with Muslim guerrillas in Lebanon used internationally banned shells which spray steel darts, a cabinet minister said yesterday.

''It is a very good weapon ... the most effective for hitting infantry targets," Ephraim Sneh, Health Minister and ex-army commander, told Israel Radio. The ammunition was "completely legitimate. We are, in effect, fighting ... terrorists ... I do not see any ethical constraint". Military spokesmen have declined to comment on use of the ammunition, which has also caused civilian and UN casualties in Israel's south Lebanon occupation zone.

Referring to a clash last week, Mr Sneh said Israeli soldiers ''identified terrorists and fired at them with this ammunition, which we are happy to say did the job". Unifil, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, says it has protested to Israel about use of the ammunition. Three peace- keepers were wounded last month by dart shells fired by an Israeli tank at a squad on night patrol, a Unifil spokesman said. Israeli sources said their soldiers had apparently fired on what they thought were guerrillas. Unifil said a UN peace-keeper was killed by Israeli dart shells in December 1993.

Last July a four-year-old Lebanese and his sisters, aged 16 and 11, were killed by the banned shells.

n Marjayoun, Lebanon - Guerrillas marked the new year with a rocket attack on an Israeli outpost on the Lebanese-Israeli border yesterday, AP reports. Security sources said no casualties were reported.