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Country Reports
ISRAEL, Landmine Monitor Report 2005


Mine Ban Policy

Israel has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. In December 2004, an Israeli official explained that the government “supports the humanitarian goal to ultimately eliminate the consequences of indiscriminate use of anti-personnel landmines. Towards that end, Israel took several concrete steps including a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel landmines and cessation of their production.... However, Israel cannot commit itself to a ‘Total-Ban’ on landmines, as it is required to resort to defensive operations against terrorists to prevent attacks on its civilians.”[1 ]

Israel is one of the small number of nations that has abstained from voting on every annual pro-mine ban UN General Assembly resolution since 1996, including UNGA Resolution 59/84, calling for universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty, on 3 December 2004.

Israel participated as an observer in the First Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in Nairobi in November-December 2004. It did not make a statement to the high level segment. While Israel has attended the treaty’s intersessional meetings in Geneva in the past, it was not present for the June 2005 meetings.

Israel is a member of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on landmines. It participated in the Protocol’s Sixth Meeting of States Parties held in Geneva on 17 November 2004, and submitted a national annual report for 2004 as required by Article 13.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

Israel has said that it “ceased all production and imports of antipersonnel mines in the early 1980s.”[2 ] In July 2004, Israeli officials disclosed for the first time that antipersonnel mine production lines have been dismantled.[3 ]

Israel declared a moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines in 1994 that was extended for three-year periods in 1996, 1999, 2002 and, most recently, July 2005.[4 ] Israeli officials anticipate that the regular three-year renewals will continue into the future.[5 ]

The size and composition of Israel’s stockpile of antipersonnel mines remains unknown, but it includes both hand-emplaced and remotely-delivered mines. Israel’s November 2003 Article 13 report stated that it continued to carry out a program to destroy outdated mines, but its November 2004 report did not make that observation.[6 ]

Israel’s November 2004 report stated, “There were no new minefields put in-place this year.” A similar declaration was made in 2002 and 2003. The last confirmed use of antipersonnel mines by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) was during its withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000.

Israel’s report also stated that “in the past year there were still many occasions where terrorists used mines, booby traps and other devices such as improvised explosive devices, causing many casualties among Israeli citizens. There were also large scale activities done by terrorist groups to smuggle and accumulate mines, booby traps, and other devices (as well as improvised explosive devices), mainly through underground tunnels, part of which the IDF succeeded in seizing, confiscating and destroying.”[7 ]

However, in this reporting period (since May 2004), Landmine Monitor has received no specific reports of use of antipersonnel mines inside Israel, and few reports of use of antipersonnel mines in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.[8 ] The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits not only antipersonnel mines, but also explosive booby-traps and other improvised explosive devices 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 without making a distinction.

Landmine Problem and Mine Action

Israel is a mine-affected country with mines dating back to World War II still active inside its borders. Since the establishment of Israel, it has used mines along its borders, near military camps and training areas, and near infrastructure, including water pump stations and electric power facilities. The Haaretz Daily newspaper has reported that approximately 33,000 dunams (33 square kilometers) of land are mined or suspected of being mined in Israel, the West Bank and Golan Heights.[9 ] Syria has previously raised the matter of erosion of minefields along hillsides in the Golan, which have caused mines to move downhill, reportedly affecting populations living in the valleys.[10 ]

There is no national agency to coordinate demining efforts. The Israel Defense Force’s Engineering Corps and commercial Israeli contractors continue to clear mines, bombs and unexploded ordnance (UXO) on an emergency basis, and on a more frequent basis when circumstances permit.

Israel maintains that all minefields within its borders are fenced, registered and updated on a timely basis by the Israeli Mapping Center (IMC). In 2003, IDF began work to improve the recording measures used for minefields and suspected areas, by using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and other equipment.[11 ] In January 2004, Israel provided maps of minefields laid by IDF and its South Lebanese Army ally to Hezbollah, as part of a prisoner exchange.[12 ] In 2004, “the IDF Engineering Corps continued to implement their annual program of monitoring and protection of minefields and suspected areas.”[13 ]

Mine Risk Education

While there is no special training on the dangers of landmines in schools, various terrorism awareness programs promote alertness with regard to explosive objects.[14 ] Israel states that information regarding minefield locations “is provided by local municipalities to the general population upon land rights and use inquiries.”[15 ] 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 Israel Defense Force command, in order to receive briefings regarding the location of actual and suspected minefields in the area.[16 ]

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

In 2004 and the first half of 2005, Landmine Monitor identified no new landmine casualties. Civilian mine casualties are registered under the umbrella category of “Victims of Hostile Activities.” It is often difficult to determine from the occasional media reports of “mine” incidents if they involved antipersonnel mines or other explosive devices. The total number of landmine casualties in Israel is not known. The last confirmed incident occurred in 2000, when an Israeli soldier was seriously injured while clearing landmines along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Most mine incidents occurred during the wars of 1967, 1973 and 1982.[17 ]

Landmine survivors were among the members of Israel’s team at the Paralympics in Athens in September 2004. Doron Shaziri, who lost his leg in a landmine explosion in 1987, won two bronze medals in competitive shooting.[18 ] Swimmer Yizhar Cohen, blinded in a landmine explosion in Lebanon in 1985, also competed.[19 ]

Israel reportedly has extensive experience in the field of trauma surgery and rehabilitation. 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. Israeli healthcare services also treat people from other Mediterranean countries. Israel has six workshops specializing in prosthetics, 10 specializing in orthotics, more than a dozen orthopedic shoemakers, and many physiotherapists working in the field of orthopedic rehabilitation.[20 ] However, there is reportedly a shortage of rehabilitation specialists, leading to waiting lists for services. The Ministry of Health provides some rehabilitation equipment and a limited number of devices to the population, free of charge.[21]

The Israeli National Insurance Services (Hamosad Lebituah Leumi) covers the cost of treatment for all Israeli citizens injured by landmines.[22 ] People with a physical disability, who cannot continue in their occupation, can receive vocational training; tuition fees, a living allowance, material and travel expenses are covered. Widows, orphans and parents of “victims of hostilities” are also eligible for training.[23 ] People with lower limb disabilities also receive compensation for mobility expenses.[24]

Israel has legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law (5758-1998) and its subsequent amendments.[25 ]

[1 ]Letter from Roey Gilad, Minister-Counsellor for Political Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in London, to Handicap International (UK), 6 December 2004.

[2 ]Email from Meir Itzchaki, Regional Security and Arms Control Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 February 2003. In the past, Israel produced low metal content blast antipersonnel mines, bounding fragmentation mines, and Claymore-type directional fragmentation munitions, designated M12A1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6.

[3 ]Interview with members of the Israeli delegation to the Eighth Session of the CCW Group of Government Experts, Geneva, 8 July 2004.

[4 ]Email from Meir Itzchaki, Deputy Director, Arms Control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 19 September 2005. He indicated Israel had notified the UN Secretary-General of an extension until July 2008. See also, CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report, 9 November 2004, p. 11.

[5 ]Interview with members of the Israeli delegation to the Eighth Session of the CCW Group of Government Experts, Geneva, 8 July 2004.

[6 ]CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report, 18 November 2003, p. 6.

[7 ]Article 13 Report, 9 November 2004, p. 10.

[8 ]See Palestine report in this edition of Landmine Monitor.

[9 ]Jonathan Lis, “IDF refuses to clear landmines from land for Arab school,” Haaretz Daily (Jerusalem), 8 September 2003.

[10 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1014.

[11 ]Article 13 Report, 18 November 2003, p. 5.

[12 ]Interview with members of the Israeli delegation to the Eighth Session of the CCW Group of Governments Experts, Geneva, 8 July 2004; Ileil Shahar, “Sharon Stands Behind POW Deal,” Maariv International (internet news source), 25 January 2004.

[13 ]Article 13 Report, 9 November 2004, p. 6.

[14 ]Interview with Meir Itzchaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, 2 January 2003.

[15 ]Article 13 Report, 9 November 2004, p. 5.

[16 ]Article 13 Report, 9 November 2004, pp. 4-5.

[17 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1015.

[18 ]“Paralympic Heroes,” Jerusalem Post, 3 October 2004.

[19 ]“Army Veterans give Israeli Advantage in Paralympics,” Associated Press (Tel Aviv), 9 August 2004.

[20 ]Article 13 Report, 9 November 2004, p. 10.

[21] Bruce Rosen, “Health Care Systems in Transition: Israel,” European Observatory on Health Care Systems, 2003, p. 87.

[22 ]For more information, see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 677.

[23 ]“Disability Insurance,” National Insurance Institute of Israel,
www.btl.gov.il/English/newbenefits/disability.htm, accessed 23 August 2005.

[24] “Mobility Benefits,” National Insurance Institute of Israel,
www.btl.gov.il/English/btl_indx.asp?name=newbenefits/mobility.htm, accessed 23 August 2005.

[25 ]For more information, see “Rights of People with Disabilities: Israel,” Center for International Rehabilitation, www.cirnetwork.org/idrm/reports/compendium/israel.cfm.