Lebanese city dwellers hope for mine-free orchards after two decades of fear
UNIFIL peacekeepers clear minefields in southern Lebanon on February 16, 2021 (Photo: Xinhua)
A Chinese UNIFIL peacekeeper clears minefields in southern Lebanon on February 16, 2021 (Photo: Xinhua)
Training of UNIFIL peacekeepers in mine and cluster bomb detection in southern Lebanon, September 29, 2021 (Photo: Xinhua)
From the balcony of a mosque in the southern Lebanese town of Abbasiya, a group of townspeople have anxiously watched their orchards for two decades, as the land was sown with mines by the IDF before its withdrawal in 2000.
Unfortunately, the Lebanese authorities have failed to clear the orchards and spare the townspeople the fear of landmines.
Mohammad Shehab, a social activist in the city, told Xinhua that the minefield, which lies near the barbed wire border fence separating Lebanon and Israel, is about two square kilometers in size and contains about 5,000 mines and cluster bombs.
The mine explosion killed a farmer, a member of the Lebanese army’s engineering department, and injured three other civilians, in addition to damaging the mosque and several houses and killing numerous livestock and dozens of wild animals, he said.
“The residents of Abbasiya hope to clear the town’s minefield and the rest of the fields scattered in various parts of the south to avoid further incidents and return the land to its owners,” he said.
Since 2000, the Lebanese army, the peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as well as local and international associations, have cleared hundreds of fields in southern Lebanon, but many fields mines are hard to find because they are buried in the dirt, Nasser Abu Latif, coordinator of the mine victims program at the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, told Xinhua.
Abu Latif explained that the areas cleared range from 100 to 120 square kilometers, or about 80 percent of the total areas planted with mines, and that the remaining areas are expected to be cleared as part of a plan drawn up in 2021 by the National Office. of the Lebanese Army for Demining in coordination with the United Nations and international donors, for demining and demining over a period of five years.
“The plan aims to accelerate the elimination of the imminent danger caused by mines and cluster bombs by using modern excavation equipment and by intensifying efforts to remove and detonate the bombs,” Abu Latif said.
The number of associations participating in mine action in southern Lebanon has increased from 20 to 6 this year, given the economic crisis and the COVID-19 outbreak, but there are still 17 teams field workers working in excavation and demining under the supervision of the National De-mining Office, and they are expected to complete their task by the end of 2026, according to Abu Latif.
For his part, Jihad Olayan, an activist who raises awareness of the dangers of mines and cluster bombs, urged the international community to support the demining plan and to help victims with disabilities overcome their ordeal financially and morally.
He said the IDF targeted around 1,061 geographic points in 155 cities with cluster bombs during its 2006 war on Lebanon.
In particular, Chinese peacekeepers have played a large role in recent years in assisting UNIFIL in mine clearance activities in southern Lebanon.
According to UNIFIL estimates, since China deployed its peacekeeping force to Lebanon in 2006 until mid-2019, more than 12,000 mines and various unexploded ordnance have been discovered and cleared by the teams. Chinese.
The Lebanese National De-mining Bureau says the number of victims of cluster bombs and Israeli mines has reached 2,340, including 914 victims and 1,426 injured, most of whom are civilians, including members of the Lebanese army and military personnel. workers on demining teams.