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Country Reports
Israel, Landmine Monitor Report 2003


Key developments since May 2002: Israel extended its export moratorium until July 2005. It reported destroying twelve tons of landmines in 2002.

Mine Ban Policy

Israel has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. According to Foreign Ministry officials, Israel shares the humanitarian objectives of the Mine Ban Treaty, but is not in a position to separate its landmine policy from other regional security considerations: “[D]ue to regional circumstances and the continuing threat of terrorism, [Israel] cannot commit itself to a total ban on the use of anti-personnel land mines.... Israel hopes that other nations in the region will join with it in establishing cooperative mechanisms aimed at reducing the threat [of landmines], preferably within the context of a comprehensive regional peace.”[1]

Israel has abstained from voting on every annual pro-landmine ban UN General Assembly resolution since 1996, including UNGA Resolution 57/74 in November 2002. As it has done in previous years, Israel attended the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2002 and intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February and May 2003.

Israel is party to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and submitted its second national report on 8 November 2002, as required under Article 13. Israel attended the Fourth Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in December 2002. Israel has not enacted any additional domestic legislation to implement the provisions of Amended Protocol II, as it believes that existing legislation is adequate, including export controls and Israel Defense Force (IDF) regulations. These regulations are “reviewed regularly” and “the IDF Engineering Corps maintains a set of detailed regulations and instructions regarding the management of archive, recording minefields, and mined areas.”[2] The obligations and provisions of CCW and Amended Protocol II are taught in IDF schools.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

Israel reiterated in February 2003 that it had “ceased all production and imports of antipersonnel mines in the early 1980s.”[3] It is still ambiguous whether this constitutes a permanent ban on production and import or a moratorium pending future developments. In 1994, Israel declared a moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines. In August 2002, the moratorium was renewed until July 2005.[4]

The size and composition of Israel’s stockpile of antipersonnel mines remains unknown, but includes both hand-emplaced and remotely-delivered mines. Israel also disclosed in November 2002 that it has an annual program to destroy outdated mines.[5] In February 2003, Israel commented for the first time on the scope of this stockpile destruction effort, stating, “During the year 2002, 12 tons of mines were destroyed by the military.”[6]

In November 2002, Israel stated, “There were no new minefields put in-place this year.” It also said, “In the recent months there were many occasions where the terrorists smuggled, accumulated and used mines, booby traps and other devices part of which the IDF succeeded in seizing, confiscating and destroying.”[7]

Landmine Problem and Mine Action

Israel is a mine-affected country. Israel has used mines along its borders, near military camps and training areas, and near infrastructure including water pump stations and electric power facilities. The Israeli-controlled Golan contains mined areas. In June 2003, a Syrian government report described a mine incident on 22 February 2003, when heavy rain caused the erosion of a minefield on the hillside in the Golan town of Majdal Shams (the village featured on the cover of Landmine Monitor Report 2000). Landmines moved downhill to the back of houses, requiring inhabitants to move to safer accommodation.[8]

Israel maintains that within its borders all minefields are fenced and registered and are updated on a timely basis by the IDF and the National Mapping Authority. In February 2003, the IDF updated its procedures for the routine inspection of existing minefields and modernized its procedures for timely provision of information to the civilian population. Officials stressed that these provisions already existed in military regulations and were merely restructured.[9] The IDF is also undertaking a project to record and map all known mined areas and areas suspected of containing mines, using Global Positioning System (GPS).[10]

Israel does not have a national agency to coordinate demining efforts. The IDF Engineering Corps and commercial Israeli contractors continue to clear mines, bombs, and unexploded ordnance on an emergency basis, and on a more frequent basis when circumstances permit. However, Maavarim Civil Engineering Company’s director Ben Sternberg noted, “While only two years ago demining was a priority, these days anti-terror measures are our priority.” He added that currently there is, “no interest to demine the mines in Golan Heights.”[11]

Operating since 1995, Maavarim provides services in the field of mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance, capacity building and technical advice, with some projects supported by the Israel Ministry of Defense. Maavarim claims to have cleared over 3 million square meters of land since 1995, including agricultural land, physical infrastructure, and rural areas. Between May 2002 and May 2003, Maavarim surveyed and confirmed that no mines were present in approximately 10,000 square meters of land to be used for a bridge construction project in the free-zone area between Israel and Jordan, close to Bet She´n in the Jordan valley. Also in 2002, Maavarim cleared 700,000 square meters in a World Bank funded project in Croatia, including a railway station in Sunja and a main road in Sibenik.[12]

UNICEF undertook an assessment of the landmine/UXO situation in the Palestinian Occupied Territories (OPT). Its August 2002 report concluded, “Minefields dating from the 1967 Middle East war, located in the first defense lines between Jordan and the West Bank and in second defense lines in the Jordan Valley and in other strategic areas leading to the West Bank, are mostly not properly fenced or marked. Israeli military training zones are not properly fenced either or not fenced at all and UXO are not collected after the end of training. Many of these training zones are situated near populated areas, as a result civilians come into contact with UXO easily. In addition to that, in most areas of confrontation Israeli and Palestinian UXO and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) are left behind.”[13]

Mine Risk Education

While there is no special training on landmines in schools, there are various terrorism awareness programs promoting alertness with regard to explosive objects.[14] In addition, Israel requires organizers of field trips (such as those conducted by schools, youth movements, work places and private citizens) to coordinate their routes with the relevant IDF command to receive briefings regarding the location of actual and suspected minefields in the area.[15] Israel’s orientation program for new immigrants includes mine and UXO risk education.

Israel has also been involved in mine risk education internationally. In 2001, it upgraded its involvement in a program with UNICEF in Angola, by providing funds for four Israeli volunteers to operate in the area. In the past, Israel has supported an Aid Without Borders mine risk education project in Kosovo and, in cooperation with the Canadian government, a survivor training and rehabilitation program in Guatemala.[16]

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

Government officials told Landmine Monitor they knew of no new landmine casualties in 2002.[17] No official record of civilian landmine casualties is available for inside the state of Israel as any casualties would be listed under the umbrella category of “Victims of Hostile Activities.”

In February 2003, four Israeli soldiers were killed when an improvised Palestinian landmine destroyed their tank.[18] In April, four soldiers were injured when the armored vehicle they were traveling in hit a landmine.[19] Both incidents occurred in the Gaza Strip.

Its Article 13 report notes that Israel “has vast experience in the field of rehabilitation, with over 2,000 traumatic amputations within the IDF and several dozens of civilian victims to landmines, UXOs, improvised explosives and other devices...”[20] Most of these incidents occurred during the wars of 1967, 1973 and 1982. In November 2001, the US Department of State noted, “The Government of Israel reports that there have been no landmine/UXO casualties within the Green Line or on the Golan Heights since at least January 1, 2000.”[21]

The Israeli National Insurance Services (Bituach Leumi) cover the cost of treatment for all Israeli citizens injured by landmines.[22] The main Israeli hospitals and centers offering rehabilitation programs include “Tel-Hashomer” (“Shiba”) and “Loewenstein” in Tel Aviv, and “Rambam” and “Bnei Zion” in Haifa. As of November 2002, Israel had six workshops specializing in prostheses, ten specializing in orthoses, more than a dozen orthopedic shoemakers, and a number of physiotherapists working in the field of orthopedic rehabilitation.[23]

In recent years, Israeli rehabilitation specialists were sent, under the auspices of the UN and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, to Sri Lanka, Vietnam, El Salvador, Croatia and Slovenia.[24] Israel also has rehabilitation exchange agreements with Armenia, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and several states of the former Soviet Union.[25] Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also funds an economic rehabilitation program in Guatemala. The microfinance program seeks to encourage landmine survivors to start their own businesses.[26]

[1] Explanations of votes by Israeli delegation at UN General Assembly First Committee on 22 October 2002 and 23 October 2002.
[2] Israel, National Annual Report required by Article 13, Amended Protocol II, CCW, submitted 8 November 2002, p. 4.
[3] Email from Meir Itzchaki, Regional Security and Arms Control Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 February 2003.
[4] Article 13 Report, 8 November 2002, p. 11.
[5] Ibid, p. 7.
[6] Email from Meir Itzchaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 February 2003.
[7] Article 13 Report, 8 November 2002, p. 7.
[8] “35th Annual Report to the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,” 20 June 2003.
[9] Email from Meir Itzchaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 February 2003.
[10] Article 13 Report, 8 November 2002, p. 8.
[11] Interview with Maavarim President Ben Steinberg and staffer Dror Schimmel, Jerusalem, 5 January 2003.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Nathalie Prevost, UNICEF Occupied Palestinian Territory, “Unexploded Ordnance and Mine Action in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” August 2002.
[14] Interview with Meir Itzchaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, 2 January 2003.
[15] Article 13 Report, 8 November 2002, p. 5.
[16] Ibid, p. 10.
[17] Email from Meir Itzchaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 February 2003; interview with Dr. Ziver, Shiba Medical Centre, 12 January 2003.
[18] Shahdi al-Kashif, “Palestinian Landmine Kills Israeli Tank Crew,” Reuters, 15 February 2003.
[19] “Six Palestinian killed in Israeli raids,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation News, 3 April 2003.
[20] Article 13 Report, 8 November 2002, p. 7.
[21] US Department of State, “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” November 2001, Appendix F, p. A-57, note 41.
[22] For details see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 677.
[23] Article 13 Report, 8 November 2002, p. 7.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Interview with Dr. Ziver, Shiba Medical Centre, 12 January 2003.
[26] Ibid.