History of Minelaying
Landmines were laid in the West Bank by both the Jordanian and Israeli armies in a number of phases.
The 1947 partitioning of Palestine resulted in the West Bank being controlled by Jordanian forces. War broke out between Israel and the neighboring Arab states in 1948 but ground fighting in the West Bank was limited, and a few areas only appear to have been 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 Israeli’s capture of the West Bank in 1967 the Israeli Army laid mines in the Jordan Valley to protect its new frontier with Jordan.
In all phases of minelaying both anti-personnel (AP) and anti-tank (AT) mines were used.
test 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 Defense 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 organizations 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 program in the West Bank funded by the US Department of State and the Dutch Government to conduct minefield survey and mineclearance. HALO will work under the auspices of the Israeli National Mine Action Authority (INMAA) and with the support of the Palestinian Mine Action Centre (PMAC).
A systematic survey of the West Bank’s minefields conducted by HALO in 2012 has provided an accurate, up-to-date assessment of the extent of the mines problem that exists there. In 2013, HALO plans to commence the clearance of the priority minefields in the West Bank, where necessary with armored mechanical equipment to support the clearance of land unsuited to manual clearance techniques.