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Country Reports
Palestine, Landmine Monitor Report 2004


Key developments since 1999: A National Mine Action Committee was created in August 2002. NMAC has designed a national mine action plan and coordinated mine risk education. Mine risk education activities have grown significantly since 2001. In 2002, a UNICEF assessment of the landmine and UXO situation concluded that most affected areas are not properly fenced or marked, including Israeli military training zones. There were allegations of Israeli use of antipersonnel mines in 2000 and 2001. Armed Palestinian groups have used improvised explosive devices, and allegedly landmines as well.

Mine Ban Policy

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has not made any official statements with respect to banning antipersonnel mines since April 2000, when an official stated that the PA supported and desired to join the Mine Ban Treaty.[1] In February 1999, a representative of the Palestine National Liberation Army called on developed countries that produce, sell and transfer antipersonnel mines to halt immediately.[2] Representatives of the PA participated in First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in 1999, but the PA has not been present for any subsequent annual Meetings of States Parties or intersessional Standing Committee meetings.

Landmine Use

Some armed Palestinian groups are believed to have access to both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines. In the past, media reports have indicated that these groups are taking the high explosives from landmines to manufacture other types of explosive devices.[3]

The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits not only antipersonnel mines, but also explosive booby-traps and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are victim-activated. Media and others are not always clear whether the devices used are victim-activated or command-detonated and often use terms interchangeably, citing the use of bombs, landmines, booby-traps and improvised explosive devices by armed Palestinian groups and Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

In February 2003, the armed Palestinian group Hamas claimed responsibility for a landmine explosion in the Gaza Strip that killed four Israeli soldiers.[4] The Israeli army stated in March 2003 that it had killed two Palestinians who it suspected were laying mines near the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip.[5] On 11 May 2004, news agencies reported that Palestinian militants were responsible for a landmine that destroyed an armored vehicle in Gaza and killed six Israeli soldiers.[6]

There were several specific allegations of use of mines by Israel in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 2000 and 2001. Israel strongly denied the charges.[7]

Landmine Problem and Mine Action

The Occupied Palestinian Territories suffer from unexploded ordnance (UXO) as well as landmines laid as long ago as World War II. Minefields are left over from the 1967 war and from the British mandate, and are generally not fenced or well-marked. There is also UXO left behind in populated areas from Israeli military incursions into urban areas of the OPT, as well as from Israeli military training.[8]

There has been no detailed assessment of the mine and UXO problem in the OPT. A UNICEF assessment of the landmine and UXO situation in 2002 concluded that most affected areas are not properly fenced or marked, including Israeli military training zones.[9] In August 2000, the UK-based Mines Advisory Group completed an assessment of mined areas around the village of Husan.

Even the National Security Forces lack a clear understanding of the scope of the problem, as they rely on information from the Israeli side and do not have maps or records of minefields. Most of the declared minefields are located on the Jordanian-West Bank border and in the Jordan Valley area.[10] In March 2003, a Palestinian police officer told Landmine Monitor that the UXO problem had expanded to include all of the OPT, particularly those areas subjected to air and ground attack.[11] There are no declared minefields in the Gaza Strip, but Ayed Abu Qtaish, mine awareness coordinator for the Defence for Children International, Palestine Section (DCI/PS) stated, “If there are minefields on the border between Jordan and the West Bank as a defensive measure, by extension there must be landmines between Egypt and Gaza, and throughout the Gaza Strip.”[12]

The National Mine Action Committee (NMAC) was created in August 2002 and consists of several governmental and NGOs. It is the official body responsible for the coordination of mine action activities in the OPT.[13] NMAC has designed a national mine action plan and conducted mine risk education activities. The first priority was to develop local capacity to address landmine and UXO issues. In high priority areas, “Mine and UXO cells” were established in appropriate existing committees or councils to assess the extent and nature of the UXO problem and develop coordinated responses, including collection of information, education, clearance, and initiatives aimed at reducing the risk. Staff were trained in basic mine and UXO risk education techniques. NMAC also plans to help each implementing institution develop its own mine and UXO risk education capacity as well as train schoolteachers in mine risk education.[14]

The PA has not yet initiated a plan to undertake mine clearance. NMAC believes that it would be difficult to begin surveying and clearing because all of the minefields are in Zone C, an area under the security control of Israel.[15] Deminers would therefore need Israel’s permission to begin work. In August 2003, a minefield was discovered on the proposed construction site for an Arab school near Tsur Baher in Jerusalem. The Israeli Defense Force reportedly refused to clear the minefield, citing soldier safety, and also would not grant permission to private companies to clear the mines.[16]

Mine Risk Education

Since mid-2003, NMAC has coordinated the mine risk education effort in the OPT. NMAC believes that there is a need to strengthen the OPT’s database and information systems for better planning and policy information.[17] It has also stated that it must go beyond publicizing information to become a more community-based program. On 8-9 December 2003, members of NMAC attended the Workshop on the Risks of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War held in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.[18]

In 2003, Defence for Children International/ Palestine Section (DCI/PS) directed the training of mine risk educators in the West Bank. It conducted ten workshops and trained 250 teachers and summer camp guides. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) coordinated the training of mine risk educators in the Gaza Strip.

The UNICEF-OPT is the leading United Nations agency for landmine and UXO risk education. The United Kingdom National Committee for UNICEF and the Foreign Ministry’s Department for International Development supported the landmine and UXO project, which focuses on children. UNICEF-OPT estimated that they were able to reach at least one million Palestinian children with key messages on UXO/landmine awareness.[19]

The UNICEF Regional Office for Middle East and North Africa is also supporting UNICEF-OPT to re-develop billboards on mine/UXO risk education on a national scale and to conduct theatrical plays on mine risks for children in high risk areas (Hebron, Jenin, and Bethlehem).

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

In 2003, landmines and UXO killed at least two children and one adult, and injured twenty other children.[20] Reported incidents include one person killed on 6 March in the governorate of Toulkarem,[21] and a boy killed on 5 August when a landmine exploded while he was playing in the Al-Shuja’iyah neighborhood, east of Gaza City.[22]

Casualties continue to be reported in 2004. On 5 June, a girl was killed and her brother injured when a mine exploded in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.[23] Another boy was injured on 6 June in a mine incident.[24]

The total number of landmine casualties in the OPT is not known. According to DCI/PS, more than 2,500 people were killed or injured by mines and UXO between 1967 and 1998.[25] Between May 2000 and the end of 2002, at least 88 mine/UXO casualties were recorded; 25 people were killed and 63 injured, including at least 42 children.[26] Media reports suggest that 23 children have been killed in the OPT by landmines or UXO planted by the Israeli military since the start of the Intifada in September 2000.[27]

Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are not eligible for medical insurance coverage under the Israeli National Insurance Services (Bituach Leumi). Instead, Palestinian health care facilities provide medical care to Palestinian mine and UXO casualties. The most prominent health service providers in the OPT are the Ministry of Health, UNRWA, and NGOs.[28]

In 2003, the ICRC continued to support the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the transportation of emergency medical supplies, and arranged a series of eight war-surgery seminars for nurses and paramedical working in the West Bank and Gaza; similar seminars were also held for surgeons and other medical staff in 2002.[29]

The “People with Disability Rights Law,” Law Number 4 (1999), applies to mine and UXO survivors.[30] Although enacted, the Law has not been implemented, and the bylaws have not yet been ratified.[31]

[1] Letter from the office of the Palestinian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Gaza, 27 April 2000.
[2] Lt. Sultan Abu Al-Ainan, Palestine Liberation Organization/Palestine National Liberation Army, Statement prepared for presentation, “The Situation from a Military Point of View Panel,” Regional Conference on the Menace of Landmines in the Arab Countries, Beirut, Lebanon, 11 February 1999.
[3] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 848-849.
[4] Shahdi al-Kashif, “Palestinian Landmine Kills Israeli Tank Crew,” Reuters, 15 February 2003.
[5] Yusri al-Jamal, “Israeli Troops, Armed Palestinians Clash in Hebron,” Reuters, 11 March 2003.
[6] Most reports attributed the explosion to a landmine, but one article stated that the tank was destroyed by a roadside bomb. See report on Israel in this Landmine Monitor Report 2004. Five more Israelis were killed on 12 May 2004, in an explosion for which the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, but most reports attributed the explosion to a homemade rocket and not a landmine.
[7] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 675-676, Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 1,011-1,012.
[8] Nathalie Prevost, UNICEF, “Unexploded Ordnance and Mine Action in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” August 2002.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Laila El-Haddad, “Landmines: Palestine’s hidden danger,” Al Jazeera, 10 January 2004.
[11] Interview with Ali Mograbi, Palestinian Police, Ramallah, 27 March 2003.
[12] Ibid.
[13] The organizations that make up NMAC include the National Plan of Action for Palestinian Children, Palestinian Red Crescent Society, Defense for Children International/Palestine Section, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
[14] NMAC meeting, 14 August 2003.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Jonathan Lis, “IDF refuses to clear landmines from land for Arab school,” Haaretz Daily, 8 September 2003. The IDF explained that even if private companies clear the mines, its soldiers must still risk their lives in examining the companies’ work.
[17] NMAC meeting, 14 August 2003.
[18] The workshop was organized by the Arab Network of Researchers on Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War.
[19] Email to DCI/PS from Monica Awad, Communications Officer, UNICEF-OPT, 19 January 2004.
[20] DCI/PS reported that since May 2003, two children were killed and twenty injured by landmines and UXO.
[21] Palestinians said that the death was caused by a landmine, but the Israeli military stated that they have not laid any mines in that area and that the victim’s death occurred when a bomb he was carrying exploded. Jeffrey Heller, “Israel Vows to Target More Hamas Leaders,” Reuters, 9 March 2003.
[22] “Palestinian boy killed by landmine in Gaza,” Voice of Palestine (Ramallah), 5 August 2003.
[23] “Palestinian girl killed in mine blast in central Gaza,” Xinhua (Gaza), 5 June 2004.
[24] “Palestinians urges [sic] world to save 14-year-old prisoner,” Xinhua (Gaza), 6 June 2004.
[25] For more details see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 977-978.
[26] For details see Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 760; Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 850.
[27] Laila El-Haddad, “Landmines: Palestine’s hidden danger,” Al Jazeera, 10 January 2004.
[28] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 851.
[29] ICRC, “Annual Report 2003,” Geneva, June 2004, p. 272.
[30] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 851.
[31] Interview with Ziad Amr, Director, Palestinian General Union of the Disabled, Ramallah, 7 March 2003.