The Defense Ministry has started clearing mines from land adjacent to the Karnei Shomron Regional Council in order to significantly expand the community, The Jerusalem Post learned on Monday.The mine removal was started at the beginning of November and will take an estimated two months to complete. More than 2,200 mines are expected to be discovered in the work area that covers some 80 dunams, or about 20 acres. The mine clearance work will be carried out by 4MDefense, which won the tender from the Defense Ministry.Once the area has been cleared, it will allow for approximately 1,200 homes to be built in the Ramat Gilad neighborhood, greatly expanding Karnei Shomron, in the northwestern West Bank, which is home to about 35,000 people.The move was led by Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in cooperation with Defense Ministry Director General Col. Udi Adam.“Building in Judea and Samaria is not a dirty word, it is our duty to the citizens of the state,” Ben-Dahan said. “I am glad that we have brought the heavy vehicles into the field and have prepared them for the construction of thousands of housing units for a million Jews who will live in Judea and Samaria in the future. Instead of land mines which are intended to kill, children will be playing in the streets of the new neighborhood.”While there are some 33,000 dunams (8,150 acres) of known minefields, there are still another 90,000 dunams (22,240 acres) throughout the country suspected of being littered with mines, mainly in open fields in the Golan, the Arava Desert and along Israel’s borders.In 2011, the Defense Ministry established the Israeli Mine Action Authority, which is in charge of clearing land mines.
Since then, the authority has cleared some 7,000 dunams (1,700 acres) of minefields and other areas suspected of containing the explosive devices.This is the first major mine removal operation in the West Bank by a governmental agency, according to the Defense Ministry.Yigal Lahav, head of the Karnei Shomron Regional Council, is looking forward to seeing homes in his community instead of minefields.“Fifty years since the liberation of Judea and Samaria and 40 years since the construction of Karnei Shomron – with the close and helpful assistance of Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan and after the large fire 18 months ago in Ramat Gilad that put many lives at risk – we are starting the clearing of over 2,000 land mines around the homes of the residents.”Last June, a brush fire broke out near a minefield in the Ramat Gilad neighborhood, damaging six caravans and forcing residents in the first row of homes in the neighborhood to evacuate.