History of Minelaying
Landmines were laid in the West Bank by both the Jordanian and Israeli armies in a number of phases, with both anti-personnel (AP) and anti-tank (AT) mines used.
The 1947 partitioning of Palestine resulted in the West Bank being controlled by Jordanian forces. War broke out between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states in 1948 but ground fighting in the West Bank was limited, and only a few areas were mined in an attempt to inhibit Israeli incursions. However, the build-up to the Six-Day War of 1967 resulted in considerably more minelaying by the Jordanian Army to defend against Israeli counter attacks.
Following Israel’s capture of the West Bank in 1967 the Israeli Army laid mines in the Jordan Valley to protect its new frontier with Jordan.
HALO’s survey in the West Bank in 2012 identified a total of 90 minefields. Thirteen were laid by the Jordanian military from 1948 to 1967, with 77 minefields laid by the Israeli military along the Jordan River following the 1967 war. Many of the minefields are within Palestinian communities, surrounded by housing and valuable land which would otherwise be readily used for construction or agriculture.
Very little effort has previously been put into clearing the minefields. Where limited clearance has taken place it has often been incomplete, with landmines remaining and accidents occurring after clearance. The concept of humanitarian mineclearance is relatively new to the West Bank. In March 2011 the Israeli Ministry of Defence established the Israeli National Mine Action Authority (INMAA) and in February 2012 the Palestinian Authority established the Palestinian Mine Action Centre (PMAC) to take responsibility for mine action in Israel and the West Bank.
Mine Risk Education (MRE) has been attempted in the West Bank by a number of organisations but these have so far failed to establish a sustainable capacity. Given the close proximity of many of the minefields to the civilian population, MRE has an important role to play in preventing accidents and raising awareness of on-going clearance activities, particularly amongst children.
HALO has established a programme in the West Bank working under the auspices of both the Israeli and Palestinian mine-action authorities.
In April 2014 HALO started the clearance of a-Nabi Elyas minefield in Qalqiliya District in the West Bank, a high priority site within a few hundred metres of a-Nabi Elyas village, some 50 years after the mines were laid. Twenty Georgian manual deminers and three Palestinian machine operators work on the site, with Israeli, Palestinian and British staff supervising and supporting the clearance.
Both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict strongly support this project – a testament to the importance of HALO’s work and the authorities’ desire to deal with the landmine problem in the West Bank.
HALO’s West Bank programme is generously supported by the Governments of the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain and New Zealand, as well as private donations.