As part of a unique project, the HALO Trust has handed over its first cleared minefield in the West Bank. Now, over 50 years after the mines were laid, Palestinian villagers living nearby can safely use their land again.
The minefield, just outside the village of a-Nabi Elyas, was laid by the Jordanian Military before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The mines caused death and injury, and prevented the use of precious farmland for decades.
This project is supported strongly by both the Israeli and Palestinian mine action authorities – the first of its kind. HALO assembled an international team including Israelis, Palestinians, Georgians and others to clear the minefield. During clearance, 600 anti-personnel mines were found and safely destroyed.
The land has been returned to its Palestinians owners who can now live without fear of an accident and bring the land back to productive use for the cultivation of olive trees and other crops.
Kayyed Abu Mahmoud owns 4,000m2 or approximately one acre of land within the minefield, which he inherited from his father. Now safely growing olives again, he said:
I feel relaxed and safe. I was always afraid for the children. I’m so happy to have the land like this. I want to build terraces to stop the soil from washing away and continue to harvest olives here.
The clearance of this minefield was funded by the governments of the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and the Hans K. Rausing Trust. It forms part of a larger project to clear the priority 'Jordanian' minefields in the West Bank by 2018.
The a-Nabi Elyas minefield affected the lives of local people and, in particular, those who owned the land, such as Karam. You can hear his story above and find out how Mahmoud and Kayyed feel now the land has been made safe.