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Country Reports
ISRAEL, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Key developments since May 2000: It appears that Israel has continued to use antipersonnel mines in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, allegedly without proper fencing and marking as required by CCW Amended Protocol II, which entered into force for Israel on 30 April 2001. There have been allegations of mine use by Palestinians as well.

Related Reports:

Mine Ban Policy

Israel has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. In October 2000, a government representative stated that Israel “shares the concern of the international community regarding the indiscriminate use of antipersonnel mines, but in view of its security situation is unable to subscribe to a total ban on their use.”[1] Israel has said it “supports a gradual process in which each state will undertake to cease proliferation of anti-personnel land mines, accept restrictions on possible use, and – once circumstances permit – a ban on the production and use of anti-personnel land mines.”[2] In December 2000, while endorsing a gradual regional process toward a total ban, Israel’s representative stated, “It should be noted that, in light of the absence of a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors, it is obliged to resort to defensive means against terrorists and imposed threats, in order to protect its civilians. Israel remains therefore unable, at present, to subscribe to an immediate total ban on landmines, as they remain necessary for ensuring the safety of our troops and civilians.”[3]

A representative from Israel attended the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2000 and in a statement said that Israel “shares, needless to say, the humanitarian values and goals of [the Mine Ban Treaty], and it is participating accordingly in the international programmes of mine-awareness and rehabilitation of victims. Moreover, it supports the international efforts for non-proliferation of APLs [antipersonnel landmines].”[4] Representatives from Israel’s Permanent Mission in Geneva attended intersessional Standing Committee meetings in December 2000 and May 2001. Israel abstained from voting on UN General Assembly Resolution 55/33V, which urged implementation and universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it has done on similar pro-ban resolutions in previous years.

Israel ratified original Protocol II (landmines) of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1995. It ratified the CCW’s Amended Protocol II on 30 October 2000 and Amended Protocol II entered into force for Israel on 30 April 2001. Israel submitted eight declarations upon ratification including one that stated:

It is the understanding of the State of Israel...[that] Article 4 [specifying detectability of antipersonnel mines] of the Amended Protocol II and the Technical Annex...shall not apply to mines already emplaced. However, provisions of the Amended Protocol II, such as those regarding marking, monitoring, and protection of areas containing mines under the control of a high contracting party, shall apply to all areas containing mines, regardless of when the mines were emplaced.[5]

Another understanding submitted by Israel deals with the obligation under Article 5, paragraph 2(b) to clear mines it has laid before abandoning an area, or to insure that another State accepts responsibility for clearance: “Israel understands that Article 5 paragraph 2(b) does not apply to the transfer of areas pursuant to peace treaties, agreements on the cessation of hostilities, or as part of a peace process or steps leading thereto.”


Israel states that “the use of anti-personnel landmines is restricted and is carried out within the constraints set up by the Amended Protocol II of the CCW Convention.”[6] Questions have been raised about inadequate marking and other measures to protect civilians by Israel, particularly with regard to Israeli minefields in the Golan Heights. (See separate report for Golan Heights). A 1999 Israeli State Comptroller’s Office audit found that some minefields are not properly marked or fenced and are not inspected within the prescribed time. This includes minefields in Israel proper, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and areas controlled by Israel in the Golan Heights.[7] The measures taken by Israel to implement and comply with the stricter requirements and obligations of CCW Amended Protocol II have yet to be assessed.

West Bank/Gaza/Palestinian Authority Territories

Past use of antipersonnel mines by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been detailed in previous Landmine Monitor Reports. It appears that Israel has continued to use mines in those areas.

On 4 July 2001, the human rights group Al-Haq reported that Israeli forces had planted landmines around an outpost near the village of al-Khader. The village is located in Area C, west of Bethlehem, near by-pass road #60. The outpost was set up in March 2001, with a tower. A owner of a house located just 15 meters from the outpost told Al-Haq that on 20 April 2001 the Israeli soldiers erected a fence around the tower, and then planted 20 mines outside the fence. The following day an Israeli officer visited the family and warned them that the area around the outpost was surrounded with mines and that if anyone stepped on them, they would be seriously injured. Israeli soldiers visited subsequently on a number of occasions and told the family to be careful because of the landmines in the area. The homeowner told Al-Haq that a mine exploded on 30April 2001 and that an Israeli officer explained it had been set off by a dog. Another explosion occurred on 10 May and a third on 30 June 2001. On 9 July 2001 an Israeli officer told the family that new mines were going to be planted about five meters from the house, according to information supplied to Al-Haq.[8]

The homeowner alleged that Israeli forces have not fenced or marked the area, and that his family was denied permission to put up a protective fence. In subsequent communication with Landmine Monitor, Al-Haq reiterated that the area is not marked or fenced, and alleged that the IDF prevented locals from putting up warning signs.[9]

If these allegations are correct, failure to fence and mark these mines could constitute a violation of Amended Protocol II, Article 5(2)(a) which states that non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines may not be used unless “such weapons are placed within a perimeter-marked area which is monitored by military personnel and protected by fencing or other means, to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians from the area. The marking must be of a distinct and durable character and must at least be visible to a person who is about to enter the perimeter-marked area.”

In response to a draft of the Landmine Monitor report, Meir Itzchaki of the Arms Control Division, Regional Security and Arms Control Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, sent a letter dated 31 July 2001 to the coordinator of Landmine Monitor. He stated, “Minefields laid by the IDF are, as a matter of routine, fenced and warning signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English, are placed. Additionally, the IDF conducts safety inspections on a regular basis and transfers the appropriate information to civilian authorities.... Israel has become party to the Amended Mines Protocol II despite the unique circumstances prevailing in the Middle East. Having decided to join this instrument, Israel fulfills its obligations to the fullest extent, and strongly rejects allegations to the contrary....”

According to an officer from the Security Forces of the Palestinian Authority, on 21 November 2000, civilians attempting to remove a blockade near Abu Daaif village in the northern part of the West Bank found antipersonnel mines buried in the blockade.[10] On 14 December 2000, the General Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel submitted a letter to the Israeli government asking for information about the army’s use of landmines in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[11] The letter was sent following the discovery of four landmines in Abu Daaif village and the injury of a Palestinian child from Balata refugee camp. In response, an Israel Defense Force (IDF) lawyer said that the matter had been referred to central command officials responsible for the area and noted that near Abu Daaif village there is a minefield, which was, according to IDF, laid by the Jordanian Army during the 1967 war.[12] The IDF response stated that the minefield was cleared in 1982 after an explosion claimed the lives of three Israeli soldiers, but went on to note that the landmines existing in that area now must be from this minefield.

According to the Palestinian National Security Information Center, since September 2000 the IDF has laid antipersonnel landmines in areas within “Zone A” in the Gaza Strip, and in areas adjacent to Israeli settlements and military sites.[13] Landmine Monitor has not been able to verify this claim. In the 31 July 2001 letter to Landmine Monitor, Meir Itzchaki of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this “allegation is completely untrue and unfounded and is nothing more than propaganda.”

There have also been allegations of mine use by Palestinians. According to one press account, “Security sources in Israel have learned that the PA has increased its mine-laying and fortification work in its outposts facing IDF position.... The Palestinians are also carrying out extensive fortification work and improving their position in case of possible confrontation with the IDF. The security establishment is also concerned over the fact that the Palestinians have recently increased the production of anti-tank weapons.”[19] There are numerous reports of Palestinian use of bombs, as opposed to mines. (See separate Palestine report for additional information on alleged Palestinian use.)

South Lebanon

Landmine Monitor Report 2000 reported that Israel used antipersonnel mines prior to and in May 2000 at the time of its withdrawal from South Lebanon. Israel declined to comment to Landmine Monitor on this finding. According to the UN Mine Action Coordination Cell (MACC) of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Israel admitted planting 70,000 landmines and 288 booby-trapped devices in the South.[20] (See the Lebanon country report for more details.)

In response to claims made by Lebanon that Israel did not provide maps of minefields after the withdrawal on 24 May 2000, Israel said, “Less than a week after the withdrawal, on 1 June 2000, Israeli Defense Force liaison to the United Nations Forces met with Lt. Col. Mishio of [UNIFIL] for the purpose of handing over files containing information and maps of mines and clusters laid by IDF. Additional assistance was offered should UNIFIL require it.”[21] The Lebanese government issued a subsequent statement denying the veracity of the Israeli declaration.[22]

Israel accused groups such as Hezbollah of planting “large quantities” of unmarked and unmapped mines and booby-traps in South Lebanon. Israel also noted, “It should come as no surprise that the minefields, which were formerly clearly marked, might have deteriorated and could, therefore, pose a threat to the population at large.”[23]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

In December 2000 Israel again restated that it has “ceased all production of antipersonnel mines and, in July 1994, enacted a moratorium of the export of APLs. Last year we decided to renew this moratorium until the year 2002, and currently, we are also considering a permanent arrangement which will extend the moratorium indefinitely.”[24] The date when Israel ceased production of antipersonnel mines is still not known, but Israel first made mention of the production halt in December 1997. The size and composition of Israel’s current mine stockpile are not known.

On 7 May 2001, the Israeli Navy apparently seized a ship containing weapons that was reportedly headed to Gaza. Among the weapons manifested by the Israeli Navy were 62 TMA-5 and 8 TMA-3 antivehicle mines, both of Yugoslavian manufacture.[25] Israeli Navy Commander Major-General Yedidia Ya’ari indicated that the source, “as far as we can tell,” was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.[26] The Palestinian Authority denied involvement.[27]

Landmine Problem

Israel has used mines along its borders, near military camps and training areas, and near sensitive areas like water pump stations and electric power facilities. In 1999, the Israeli State Comptroller’s Office published an audit of mine use policies and practices of the IDF.[28] The audit stated that there are 350 antipersonnel minefields emplaced by the IDF and other belligerent parties that are no longer “vital to the security of the state.” This includes minefields within the state of Israel proper, the West Bank, and Gaza. Additionally, the State Comptroller noted that an unspecified number of minefields in the Jordan Valley and the Arava are “also no longer vital.”[29] The US State Department estimates that there are 260,000 mines in Israel.[30] Aside from mines emplaced by the IDF, this figure includes mines laid prior to the establishment of Israel by the British and during subsequent conflicts by Jordan and Syria.[31]

Mine Action

The IDF continues to clear mines, bombs, and UXO on an emergency basis. The IDF’s countermine capabilities are considerable but apparently not used for humanitarian mine clearance within Israel or territory Israel controls. Additionally, the Mavarim Civil Engineering Company has contracted for mine clearance operations in the past both nationally and internationally.[32] Technologies for mine detection and clearance are also developed within the Israeli defense-industrial complex in places such as the Israel Institute of Technology. In the past, Israeli government funding and private organizations have supported mine awareness education and victim reintegration programs in Angola, Kosovo, and Guatemala.

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

No record of civilian landmine victims is available for inside the state of Israel because mine victims are listed under the umbrella category of “Victims of Hostile Activities.” The Israeli media occasionally reports on mine casualties suffered by soldiers. For example, on 5 June 2000, the media reported that an Israeli soldier was severely wounded while clearing minefields along the Israeli-Lebanese border.[33]

Israel continues to cover the complete costs of treatment for mine victims who are citizens or who have entered the country legally through Bituach Leumi or National Insurance Service. The capacity of Israel’s health care infrastructure to care for and rehabilitate mine and UXO victims is among the best in the world.

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[1] Statement by Jeremy Issacharoff, Head of Regional Security and Arms Control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the UNGA First Committee, 13 October 2000, p. 7.
[2] Statement by Ambassador Aaron Jacob, Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, to the UN General Assembly, on Agenda Item 47, New York, 28 November 2000.
[3] Statement by Amnon Efrat, Minister-Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Israel, Geneva, at the Second Annual Conference of the States Parties to Amended Protocol II of the CCW, 11 December 2000, p. 3.
[4] Statement by Amnon Efrat, Minister-Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Israel, Geneva, to the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 11 September 2000.
[5] The texts of Israel’s declarations are taken from the UN Treaty Series online database.
[6] Statement by Amnon Efrat to Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, 11 September 2000, p. 2; nearly identical language is used in Statement by Amnon Efrat to Second Annual Conference, Amended Protocol II, 11 December 2000, p. 3.
[7] State Comptroller’s Report, 1999. For specific examples see, Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 936.
[8] Al-Haq, “Landmines Planted Around Israeli Military Outpost in the Occupied Territories,” Press Release #110, 4 July 2001; affidavit of owner, given to Al-Haq, supplied to Landmine Monitor/Human Rights Watch.
[9] Telephone communications between Al-Haq and Landmine Monitor/Human Rights Watch, 9 July 2001 and 10 July 2001.
[10] Letter to DCI/Palestine from Major Issa Kreis, Operations Division of the Palestinian National Security Forces, 22 November 2000.
[11] Letter from Hanna Friedman, General Director, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Ehud Barak, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel, 24 September 2000.
[12] Letter from Captain Sharon Affeck, Senior advising officer, for the IDF judge advocate general in response to the General Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, provided to Defense of Children International -Israel Section by PCATI (original in Hebrew), 14 December 2000.
[13] Interview with Younis Al-Katry, General Director of National Security Information Center, 21 December 2000; Hisham Salem, “The Landmine Issue in the Occupied Territories,” National Security Information Center, 2000. The Palestinian National Security Information Center is affiliated with the Palestinian Authority and is part of the President Security Advisor Office in Gaza.
[19] Hagai Huberman, “Palestinians Bolstering Defenses: Palestinians Increasing Mine-Laying in Gaza Strip,” Hatzofe (Israeli Hebrew language newspaper), p. 3.
[20] Interview with UN MACC personnel, Naqoura, 18 January 2001.
[21] Note Verbale dated 5 April 2001 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN, Geneva, addressed to the Secretariat of the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/154), 11 April 2001.
[22] Interview with Johnny Ibrahim, First Secretary, Lebanese Permanent Mission to the UN, Geneva, 10 May 2001.
[23] Note Verbale dated 5 April 2001 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN, Geneva, addressed to the Secretariat of the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/154), 11 April 2001.
[24] Statement by Amnon Efrat, Geneva, 11 December 2000, p. 2.
[25] IDF Spokesman, “Israel Navy Forces Detain Ship With Weapons” (online edition), 8 May 2001.
[26] Deborah Camiel, “Palestinians Kill Settler Day After Baby Killed,” Reuters (Jerusalem), 8 May 2001.
[27] “Captured boat with weapons was for Palestinians,” Associated Press (Jerusalem), 7 May 2001.
[28] For more details on this report, see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 935-936.
[29] State Comptroller's Report No. 50 A, for the Year 1999, “Mine Laying in the Israel Defense Forces,” (Published in Hebrew and translated unofficially) Israel government printing office, Jerusalem. Hereafter cited as “State Comptroller’s Report, 1999.”
[30] US Department of State, “Hidden Killers,” September 1998, p. A-1.
[31] State Comptroller’s Report, 1999.
[32] For example, Mavarim was contracted to clear mines in Croatia in November 1998, but it is not known if the clearance was accomplished.
[33] David Rudge, “Soldier Wounded in Mine-Clearing Accident,” Jerusalem Post, 6 June 2000.