15 August 2011

(Geneva, 16 August 2011) Humanitarian campaigners fighting for a mine-free world have strongly condemned Israel’s planting of new antipersonnel mines along the Syrian border with the Golan Heights. Recent reports have indicated that the mines are being laid to prevent the movement of protestors from Syria into the Golan Heights.

“There can be absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons, and to hear that these mines are aimed at civilians is particularly shocking,” said Kasia Derlicka, Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “Earlier this year the Israeli government began clearing some of its deadly minefields, in recognition of their lethal humanitarian impact. Now, at the same time, to use this inhumane weapon against civilians is absolutely disgraceful,” Derlicka added.

The ICBL is calling on Israel to immediately clear the minefields, in order to prevent more civilian casualties. In a recent high profile case, 11-year-old Daniel Yuval lost his leg after stepping on an Israeli mine in the Golan Heights. This is the first confirmed use of antipersonnel mines by Israel in more than a decade. Israel is not among the 156 States Parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively bans all use of the weapon. The ICBL holds use of antipersonnel mines in an armed conflict as a violation of international humanitarian law because of the inherently indiscriminate nature of the weapon.

In this case, the ICBL believes that using antipersonnel mines to prevent border crossings is unlawful as it is an unnecessary and disproportionate use of lethal force. Israel may also be in violation of its international obligations under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits the deliberate use of mines against civilians. These reports stem from an article in an Israeli military magazine.

Major Ariel Iluz of the Israeli Defense Force engineering corps said new antipersonnel mines were recently planted in existing minefields ahead of expected protests around a UN vote on an independent Palestinian state in September. The article said that Israel believes the new mines are needed as many of the older models didn’t detonate when Syrian and Palestinians protesters living in Syria attempted to cross into Israeli territory in June. Laid along the 1974 disengagement line, within a previously mined area, the mines will act as a "renewal" of the Golan Heights landmine belt, already said to contain as many as 1.2 million landmines.

“The use of antipersonnel landmines has become so stigmatized, it is extremely rare even among those who have not joined the Treaty. Recently only two states have planted them – Libya and Myanmar – states that have shown little respect for international humanitarian law and the impact of their military actions on civilians,” Derlicka said.

Click here to see Israel’s country profile in the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

Israel is party to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Article 3.7 of this protocol prohibits “in all circumstances to direct weapons to which this Article applies, either in offence, defence or by way of reprisals, against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians or civilian objects.”