(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel should adopt internationally tested mine-clearing techniques when it
begins its land mine removal pilot program this summer, an international expert
on mine removal said Monday.
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“Applying international standards will not
only guarantee that all land mines have been located and removed – so that the
public will confidently be able to make full use of mine-free lands – it will
also reduce costs and improve efficiency,” said Christopher Clark, senior
liaison officer and technical adviser of the United Nations Mine Action
“Now that Israel had passed this groundbreaking law, it must
ensure that this process will be as safe, cost-effective and rapid as possible.
Insisting to use the approach which the Israel army is already familiar with is
quite simply not the way forward.”
Clark added that “the international
community in general and those involved in mining have learned very many
practical lessons in the clearing of mine fields which have drastically improved
speed of clearance without sacrificing efficiency and in most cases have
improved efficiency and reduced costs of removal drastically.
costs to remove mine fields seven, eight, or nine years ago have probably been
reduced a third or a fourth due to this knowledge we’ve gained.” Clark
spoke to The Jerusalem Post
while in Israel for International Mine Awareness
In 2003, Clark was appointed program manager for the UN mine action
program in South Lebanon and program manager for the Mine Action Coordination
Center. He was in charge of clearing land mines left in Lebanon following the
Israeli withdrawal in 2000 and oversaw the removal of unexploded cluster bombs
from south Lebanon following the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
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that while there are more minefields in Lebanon, “Israel has the same sort of
characteristics as south Lebanon. That is, a relatively small piece of land
overall; so having a concentration of land mines is out of proportion to the
size of the country. Mines have a multipliable effect [in Israel] because
of the denial of land access and tourism.”
He also said that Israel can
learn from the experiences in neighboring countries largely because the terrain
and geography are so very similar.
Last month, the Knesset passed the
Land Mine Law, which calls for the establishment of a national mine action
authority in charge of the clearances. It will be operated by the Defense
Ministry with an annual budget of NIS 27 million. Israel will seek assistance
from the international community to supplement the budget.
number of land mines in Israel is unknown, but hundreds of thousands of them
were placed mainly along Israel’s borders, covering an estimated 50,000
There are also land mines dating back to the British Mandate that
were never removed.
Much of the impetus for the law came from controversy
surrounding the severe injury of 11-year-old Daniel Yuval, who lost half of his
left leg when he stepped on a land mine while hiking in the Golan Heights in
February 2010. Yuval later testified about his experiences at the Knesset
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee as well as at the US State
Following the passing of the mine clearance bill, the
Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee announced that Israel’s first
pilot project for land mine clearance is likely to begin in August.
Or, Israel director of the global anti-mining advocacy group Roots of Peace,
said that current methods of mine removal being used by the IDF are not up to
international standards, and that they constitute a “quick-fix
Or said that techniques like using bulldozers to scoop up
mined heavy dirt and move it elsewhere presents a threat that the mines may be
returned to exposed areas during a flood. He also said that detonations of
anti-tank mines in the Jordan Valley have caused broken windows in nearby
To Or, the problem is that the government felt political
pressure from a grassroots movement and was looking for a quick
“The initiative to remove mines came from the grassroots, from
land mine survivors, and was thrown onto the political system, which is now
trying to show that they are doing something, but in actuality they are not
doing it in a way that meets the international standards.
it quickly and ad-hoc, instead of doing it according to international standards
that have been established over more than 20 years of global de-mining
The IDF sent a response on Monday to Clark's comments, saying "the
Engineering Corps and the entire Israel Defense Forces have been working
over recent years in an intensive manner to clear mine fields for the
welfare and security of the state's residents. The IDF operates
according to existing professional practices and methods while also
examining new and unique ways of operating."
The statement also mentioned how the IDF on Monday finished de-mining a 2,600 dunam plot of land in the area of Moshav Faran.
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