Clearing Explosive Remnants of War in the West Bank

Nov 16, 2017

The West Bank is littered with landmines and unexploded ordnance, due to decades of conflict beginning as far back as 1948. A survey conducted in 2012 identified 90 minefields. Of these, 13 were laid by the Jordanian military between 1948 and 1967. The remaining 77 minefields were laid by the Israeli military following the 1967 war.

And landmines are not the only problem. Over half a century of armed conflict has left swaths of land contaminated with unexploded ordnance. After so many years, much of this war materiel lies buried beneath the soil, deep enough that it cannot be found with metal detectors. It is nonetheless highly dangerous to anyone digging in the soil, be it a farmer plowing a field or digging a new well, or children at play. Indeed, children are the most frequent victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Too often, they do not recognize the danger of these objects, and may pick up or even play with explosives.

Manual landmine clearance underway in the West Bank, HALO Trust.
Manual landmine clearance underway in the West Bank, HALO Trust.

Clearing these hazards has been a difficult task, and not just due to the nature of such indiscriminate killers. Some of the contaminated areas are under Palestinian control, others are under Israeli control, while a number of zones are under Palestinian Authority civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian Authority security control. Getting permission to demine was a long and arduous process. Following years of negotiations, the first humanitarian mine action program in the West Bank finally began in April 2014.

The only mine clearance operator in the West Bank is the HALO Trust, a non-political, non-religious British charity as well as a U.S. non-profit organization that specializes in the removal of explosive remnants of war. The group has already disposed of thousands of landmines and unexploded ordnance in the West Bank, and hopes to clear by 2018 at least 9 minefields that lie dangerously close to Palestinian communities.

Over the past five years, the United States has provided over $4.1 million for humanitarian mine action activities in the West Bank. Led by the U.S. Department of State and in partnership with the governments of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the United States is proud to support the Halo Trust's humanitarian mine action program in the West Bank.