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Israel to begin clearing minefields along frontier

01-30-2012 00:31 BJT

JERUSALEM, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Israel's defense ministry will launch a massive land mine clearing project along the frontier, according to a statement released Sunday.

The ministry's Mine Clearance Authority (MCA) has signed a first-of-its-kind contract with a private firm to remove thousands of land mines strewn along the country's frontier with Egypt, Jordan and Syria over the next decade.

The work is scheduled to begin in March in the Arava Valley, a desert region south of the Dead Sea. At the initial stage, an area of 0.24 square km, which experts consider to be particularly hazardous to the public, will be cleared, the statement said.

"We are talking about a very serious and meaningful accomplishment in the greater campaign for the clearing of mines across Israel," said Ervin Lavi, director of the MCA.

An unknown number of Israeli civilians have been hurt by land mines over the years. But official action to deal with the problem was only taken after 11-year-old Daniel Yuval lost his right leg while hiking with his family in February last year.

In an emotional appearance before the parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, the boy recounted his ordeal, urging lawmakers and other senior government officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to change a policy which for decades held that mined frontiers are integral to the state's security.

A few months later, the parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of the "Mine Clearance Act", which established the MCA for removing mines "that are not required for security purposes."

While the company that won the 60-million-U.S. dollar government tender for the project was not named, it has its work cut out. The estimated 300,000 antipersonnel mines that line Israel's borders are spread over an area of about 130 square km, according to the defense ministry's statement. Some of the mines were laid by the Israeli military as far back as five decades ago, while others were placed by the country's foes and have drifted into areas frequented by hikers.

"These land mines are not essential for state security, and have been laid over the course of many years, often for specific operational requirements," said the MCA director.

He said that the MCA is preparing a multi-year plan to clear more land mines in accordance with budget it was allocated.

Israel, like most countries in the Middle East, has thus far declined to sign a United Nations treaty that bans the production and use of land mines.


Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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