Mine Action

Last updated: 29 November 2015


In the State of Palestine, hazards encompass minefields, military training zones, and areas of confrontation where many explosive devices are left behind. 

A 2013 survey by the Palestine Mine Action Centre (PMAC) found that Palestine has mined areas covering 19.9km2, marginally less than its previous estimate (20.4km2).[1] A HALO Trust survey of the West Bank in 2012 identified 90 minefields, including 13 laid by the Jordanian military in 1948–1967, and 77 minefields laid by the Israeli military along the Jordan River after the 1967 war.[2] All minefields, including those laid by the Jordanian military, are under Israeli military control.[3] 

According to HALO, as of March 2015, of the total contamination, more than 0.6km2 of confirmed hazardous area (CHA) containing mines exists across 11 minefields in Palestinian-controlled territory and two minefields in no-man’s-land between the West Bank and Israel. All 13 minefields (see table below) were laid by the Jordanian army.[4] 

Contamination in Palestinian-controlled territory and no-man’s-land as of March 2015[5]

Type of contamination


Area (km2)

Antipersonnel mines



Antipersonnel and antivehicle mines







Six of the 12 governorates in the West Bank still contain mined areas, as set out in the table below.[6]

Contamination by governorate as of March 2015[7]



Area (m2)























Most mined areas are located in “Area C” along the border with Jordan, which covers approximately 60% of the West Bank and is under full Israeli control regarding security, planning, and construction.[8] In Area C, many suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) are the result of military training.[9] 

According to the UN, of the estimated 90 minefields in the West Bank, the 11 situated in more “central areas” (the governorates of Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Qalqiliya, and Tulkarm) are priorities for clearance.[10] In addition to posing a risk to civilians, mines affect the socioeconomic development and livelihoods of Palestinian communities. All mined areas are located in or in close proximity to inhabited areas;[11] are mostly on privately-owned fertile agricultural and grazing land or along roads used daily by communities; and are either poorly marked or not marked at all. Yet they are accessible to the population, and in some cases are even cultivated. These minefields were laid by the Jordanian military and are all located in areas under Israeli security control; clearance operations must therefore be coordinated with the Israeli government.[12] 

Explosive remnants of war

Palestine is also contaminated with explosive remnants of war (ERW) though the precise nature and extent of the problem are not known. Neither the West Bank nor Gaza is believed to be affected by cluster munition remnants.

Gaza had extensive ERW contamination resulting from Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008−2009 and “Operation Pillar of Protection” in November 2012. Clearance operations conducted in 2010 by the UN Mine Action Team in Gaza (UNMAT-GO) partnered with Mines Advisory Group (MAG), found mainly mortars, rockets, bombs, and M-15 antivehicle mines used to demolish buildings but also some white phosphorous ordnance.[13] The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) reported explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) police destroyed 8.8 tons of ordnance in 2013 and by the end of the year had removed most of the unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Gaza City to a location outside it.[14]

Further hostilities in Gaza took place under “Operation Protective Edge,” during a seven-week period between 8 July and 26 August 2014, causing unprecedented damage and destruction in Gaza.[15] By late August, before hostilities had concluded, the UN estimated the operation had inflicted three-times as much destruction to buildings as had Operation Cast Lead.[16]

According to UNMAS,during the hostilities, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) conducted more than 5,085 airstrikes, and fired 8,210 missiles, 15,736 naval projectiles, and 36,718 land projectiles. In addition, armed groups in Gaza fired approximately 4,584 rockets and 1,676 mortars toward Israel, a portion of which fell short and landed within Gaza.[17] Significant numbers of unexploded aircraft bombs, tank shells, and other ammunition from both sides have been reported in civilian areas. The hostilities ended in late August 2014, but the long-term risk to civilians from explosive hazards remains, either from UXO resulting from the firing of heavy weapons or by weapons and ammunition being abandoned in civilian areas.[18] Based on an estimated 10% failure rate of munitions used in the conflict, UNMAS estimates that 7,000 items of ERW are buried in the rubble, representing a significantly higher level of contamination than in previous conflicts.[19]

The unprecedented ERW contamination is said by UNMAS to have interrupted the lives of whole communities, making gaining access to homes, schools, food distribution centers, and health facilities challenging and dangerous. Livelihoods are also directly affected with small industries and farmlands destroyed or littered with ERW. The concentration of ERW in the debris of destroyed and damaged infrastructure impedes the initial clean-up of densely populated areas, public spaces, and farmland. Furthermore, the wide scale of contamination by explosive munitions compounds the problem of internally displaced people, and complicates the return to neighborhoods.[20]

Program Management 

An authorization from the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister on 25 March 2012 set up PMAC; appointed its director; and created a Higher Committee for Mine Action as an interministerial body with 27 members representing the ministries of health, justice, education, foreign affairs, interior, military liaison, intelligence, and police, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. The Higher Committee for Mine Action, which serves as the national mine action authority, is tasked to develop mine action legislation and allocate resources for the sector.[21]

PMAC, which is located in the Ministry of Interior in Ramallah, is mandated to coordinate all aspects of mine action in the West Bank. It receives technical advice from UNMAS.[22] The committee has established a number of subcommittees to deal with risk education, technical issues, legal affairs, foreign affairs, and health and safety.[23]

PMAC currently has 10 employees,[24] and is staffed with personnel from the Palestinian National Security Forces, Civil Police, and Civil Defense. PMAC also has a team of 30 that have been trained by UNMAS for demining but which is not yet equipped to do so. The Civil Police have an EOD unit with 42 personnel in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilyah, Ramallah, and Tulkarm, who conduct rapid response to locate and remove items of UXO.[25] 

Mine action is subject to the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, under which the West Bank is divided into three areas: Area A is under full Palestinian civilian and security control; Area B is under full Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control; and Area C (approximately 60% of the West Bank) where Israel has full control of security, planning, and construction.[26]

Strategic planning

There is no strategic mine action plan for Palestine. Over two years, UNMAS has worked to build consensus among Israeli, Palestinian, and international stakeholders regarding a modus operandi for clearance operations in the central West Bank, and for Israel to authorize demining.[27]


To date, Israel has not authorized demining operations by Palestinian deminers and no clearance operations have been conducted by or on behalf of PMAC.[28] However, in September 2013, the Israeli National Mine Action Authority (INMAA) gave formal authorization for HALO Trust to clear two of the 11 minefields deemed high priority by PMAC.[29] Following INMAA authorization, HALO Trust began mine clearance in the West Bank in April 2014.[30] HALO works under the auspices of both the Israeli and Palestinian mine-action authorities.[31]

Mechanical assets deployed by HALO include three front-loading shovels, one armored excavator, and one rock crusher. From April–August 2014, HALO deployed 16 Georgian deminers and three mechanical operators, with an addition three deminers and one mechanical operator from August to December 2014. This capacity increased slightly in 2015, with an additional mechanical operator and five additional deminers, to allow expansion onto the second minefield at Husan.[32]

In 2013, Israeli commercial operator Quadro Projects and Technologies (Quadro), contracted by California-based Roots of Peace and approved by the INMAA, conducted mine clearance in the village of Husan, in the governorate of Bethlehem.[33] Quadro has not conducted clearance since 2013.[34]

Quality management

The INMAA and PMAC both provide external quality assurance (QA) of HALO’s clearance operations in the West Bank. In addition, 4CI Security is contracted to monitor HALO’s clearance in accordance with Israeli National Mine Action Standards.[35] 

Land Release

The total mined land released by clearance in 2014 was 12,226m2, compared with 7,000m2 in 2013. No land was cancelled in 2014 by non-technical survey.

Survey in 2014

HALO reported that in 2014 it surveyed eight mined areas across the four governorates totaling 266,354m2, set out in the table below.[36] These sites were CHAs containing mines already recorded in PMAC’s database and on maps; the survey was intended to more accurately delineate the boundaries of the CHAs. HALO survey data is based on its joint site visits with PMAC and the INMAA, combined with information from PMAC, the INMAA, and local landowners.[37]

HALO survey of mined areas in 2014[38]


Areas confirmed as mined*

Area confirmed (m²)*
















Note: * Survey was conducted on existing CHAs to more accurately delineate the boundaries.

Clearance in 2014

In 2014, HALO cleared 12,226m2 of mined area in Qalqiliya province, in the West Bank, with the destruction of 255 antipersonnel mines and 41 antivehicle mines.[39] 

Working with the approval of PMAC and INMAA, HALO’s demining operations began in April 2014 at a-Nabi Elyas village in Qalqiliya province.[40] The minefield at a-Nabi Elyas was laid in 1965 by the Jordanian military with Belgian PRB M35 antipersonnel mines and British MkV antivehicle mines—an estimated 1,400 mines in total, of which many are known to remain in a functioning condition. Where mines have become deeply buried by soil movement, the plastic PRB M35 cannot be found with metal detectors. In such conditions, HALO uses armored mechanical equipment to fully excavate contaminated soil and ensure that all deeply buried mines are found and destroyed.[41] 

The 12,226m2 cleared by HALO in 2014 marks a small increase from 2013, when 7,000m2 of mined area were cleared by Quadro.

Progress in 2015

As of October 2015, HALO was still working on the a-Nabi Elyas minefield, and reported that it had been necessary to excavate deeper than planned in certain parts and also to include areas outside of the minefield due to land being littered with contaminated soil from the minefield. HALO aimed to complete clearance of the minefield in 2015.[42] 

In addition, in June 2015, HALO commenced clearance of Husan minefield, in the governorate of Bethlehem. This minefield had been partially cleared by Quadro in 2013, and HALO is now clearing the remaining contaminated area. Between 9 June and 31 August 2015, 6,499m2 was cleared with the destruction of 82 antipersonnel mines.[43]

Relation to Mine Ban Treaty Article 5

Palestine is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty. In March 2015, PMAC’s director claimed that clearance of antipersonnel mines would be completed in five years, if there are no constraints by the occupation.[44] 

To date, very little progress has been made in clearing mined areas in the West Bank, with less than 0.02km2 cleared over the last five years (see table below). Clearance of mined areas in the West Bank is largely constrained by political factors, including the lack of authorization granted by Israel for Palestine to conduct or oversee mine clearance operations. However, it is a positive development that HALO began mine clearance operations in April 2014. HALO expected to take a further four years to complete clearance of priority sites in the West Bank.[45] 

Mine clearance in 2010–2014[46]


Area cleared (km2)














[1] Email from Brig. Joma Mousa, Director, PMAC, 31 March 2014.

[2] HALO, “West Bank, The problem,” undated.

[3] Emails from Tom Meredith, Desk Officer, HALO, 24 June 2015, and 23 October 2015; and response to NPA questionnaire, by Sonia Pezier, Junior Programme Officer, UNMAS, 14 April 2015.

[4] Email from Tom Meredith, HALO, 24 June 2015.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. While the total area of contamination (0.611km2) reported by PMAC matched HALO’s contamination data, there were inconsistencies between PMAC and HALO’s data on the number and location of CHAs containing mines. As at end 2014, PMAC reported four CHAs in Jenin totaling 126.14km2; one CHA in Tulkarm totaling 13.07km2; four CHAs in Qalqailya totaling 202.971km2; two CHAs in Ramallah totaling 141.332km2; one CHA in Bethlehem totaling 19.979km2; and two CHAs in Hebron totaling 32.152km2. PMAC also reported the governorate of Jerusalem as containing two CHAs totaling 74.914km2. Response to questionnaire by Brig. Joma Abdeljabbar, PMAC, 12 March 2015. HALO is not aware of any remaining minefields inside Jerusalem. Emails from Tom Meredith, HALO, 30 July 2015; and from Ronen Shimoni, Programme Manager, HALO, 22 October 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Email from Celine Francois, Programme Officer, UNMAS, Jerusalem, 5 July 2012; and “UNMAS 2013 Annual Report,” undated but 2014.

[9] Response to questionnaire by Sonia Pezier, UNMAS, 14 April 2015.

[10] Ibid.; and UNMAS, “State of Palestine,” undated.

[11] Responses to NPA questionnaire by Sonia Pezier, UNMAS, 14 April 2015; by Brig. Joma Abdeljabbar, PMAC, 12 March 2015; and by Tom Meredith, HALO, 11 May 2015; and UNMAS, “State of Palestine,” undated.

[12] Response to NPA questionnaire by Sonia Pezier, UNMAS, 14 April 2015; UNMAS, “State of Palestine,” undated; and email from Tom Meredith, HALO, 23 October 2015.

[14] UNMAS, “UNMAS 2013 Annual Report,” undated but 2014.

[15] Response to NPA questionnaire by Sonia Pezier, UNMAS, 14 April 2015.

[16] T. Lazaroff, “Serry: Damage to Gaza structures three times that from Cast Lead,” Jerusalem Post, 20 August 2014.

[17] Response to NPA questionnaire by Sonia Pezier, UNMAS, 14 April 2015; and UNMAS, “State of Palestine,” undated.

[18] Response to NPA questionnaire by Sonia Pezier, UNMAS, 14 April 2015.

[19] UNMAS, “State of Palestine,” undated.

[20] Response to NPA questionnaire by Sonia Pezier, UNMAS, 14 April 2015.

[21] Emails from Celine Francois, UNMAS Jerusalem, 19 July 2012; and from Imad Mohareb, Planning Department, PMAC, 31 March 2013.

[22] Emails from Celine Francois, UNMAS Jerusalem, 5 July 2012, and 19 July 2012; and UN, “2012 Portfolio of Mine Action Projects,” New York, 2013.

[23] Email from Imad Mohareb, PMAC, 31 March 2013.

[24] Response to NPA questionnaire by Brig. Joma Abdeljabbar, PMAC, 12 March 2015.

[25] Emails from Celine Francois, UNMAS Jerusalem, 5 July 2012, and 19 July 2012.

[26] Email from Celine Francois, UNMAS Jerusalem, 5 July 2012.

[27] UNMAS “State of Palestine,” undated.

[28] Email from Brig. Joma Mousa, PMAC, 31 March 2014; and interview with David Bax, Programme Manager, UNMAS, Geneva, 17 February 2015.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.; and response to NPA questionnaire by Tom Meredith, HALO, 11 May 2015.

[31] HALO, “West Bank,” undated.

[32] Emails from Tom Meredith, HALO, 23 October 2015; and from Ronen Shimoni, HALO, 22 October 2015.

[33] Email from Eran Yuvan, Deputy Director, Arms Control Policy Department, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 April 2014; and Roots of Peace, “Landmines Echo in the Fields of Bethlehem,” 11 December 2013.

[34] Email from Michael Heiman, Director of Technology and Knowledge Management, INMAA, 30 July 2015.

[35] Response to NPA questionnaire by Tom Meredith, HALO, 11 May 2015.

[36] Ibid. No survey data was reported by PMAC for 2014, likely due to the fact HALO was re-surveying CHAs already in PMAC’s database.

[37] Email from Tom Meredith, HALO, 24 June 2015.

[38] Response to NPA questionnaire by Tom Meredith, HALO, 11 May 2015.

[39] Ibid. Clearance data reported by HALO’s contained inconsistencies with data reported by PMAC and INMAA. PMAC reported HALO as having cleared 31,394m2 in total, destroying 277 antipersonnel mines, 42 antivehicle mines, and 18 items of UXO. INMAA reported HALO as having cleared 297 antipersonnel mines and 45 antivehicle mines, and did not report a total area of clearance. The INMAA difference is explained by the fact that the INMAA data includes dangerous mine remnants (DRs) (42 DR of antipersonnel mines and four DR of antivehicle mines). Email from Michael Heiman, INMAA, 30 July 2015.

[40] Emails from Tom Meredith, HALO, 14 May 2014; and from Brig. Joma Mousa, PMAC, 31 March 2014; and response to NPA questionnaire by Tom Meredith, HALO, 11 May 2015.

[42] Emails from by Ronen Shimoni, HALO, 22 October 2015; and from Tom Meredith, HALO, 22 October 2015.

[43] Response to NPA questionnaire by Tom Meredith, HALO, 23 October 2015.

[44] Response to NPA questionnaire by Brig. Joma Abdeljabbar, 12 March 2015.

[45] Email from Tom Meredith, HALO, 24 June 2015.

[46] See Landmine Monitor reports on Palestine in 2011–2014.