The Israeli Defence Ministry has started to clear its own landmines from Palestinian-owned land adjacent to the illegal settlement of Karnei Shomron near Qalqiliya, the Jerusalem Post revealed on Monday. The clearance programme is expected to last two months; more than 2,200 landmines are believed to have been laid in the area, which covers around 20 acres of stolen land.
Once cleared, 1,200 settlement units are expected to be built, greatly expanding Karnei Shomron, which is home to about 35,000 illegal settler-colonists. Deputy Defence Minister Eli Ben-Dahan and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman are leading this move in cooperation with the ministry's Director General, Colonel Udi Adam.
Palestinian anti-settlement activist Khalid Maali confirmed that the new colony is being built on Palestinian land. The minefield which is being cleared is located to the west of the Qalqiliya villages of Kafr Lafet, Jensafout and Deir Istya, he explained.
"Building in Judea and Samaria [sic] is not a dirty word, it is our duty to the citizens of the state," Ben-Dahan insisted. "I am glad that we have brought the heavy vehicles into the field and have prepared them for the construction of thousands of housing units for a million Jews who will live in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] in the future." Instead of land mines which are intended to kill, the Israeli official added, children will be playing in the streets of the new neighbourhood [settlement].
According to the Jerusalem Post, there are some 33,000 dunams (8,150 acres) of known minefields, as well as a further 90,000 dunams (22,240 acres) across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories suspected of being littered with landmines.