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Third phase of UAE funded demining in Lebanon begins

posted on 17/08/2003: 2526 views



The third phase of the UAE-funded US$50 million demining operation in southern Lebanon has kicked off, with the UAE unit actively engaged in the operations alongside other international bodies. The project, codenamed 'Operation Emirates Solidarity' has been initiated by the UAE, on the instructions of the President, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in response to the Lebanese government's request for support.



The project aims at removing more than 600,000 mines left behind by Israeli troops before their pullout from the Lebanese territories. Before the UAE offered support, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was facing difficulties in demining the area. The operation is beset with dangers given the mountainous nature of the area, as well as the presence of different types of mines, some more than 50 years old.



To launch the operation around two years ago, the UAE and Lebanese governments signed in Abu Dhabi and Beirut a memorandum of understanding for the implementation of the project. Lebanon's National Demining Office, in accordance with the MoU, established a co-ordination cell in south Lebanon, based in Tyre with the participation of the UAE, the UN and the UNIFIL. The cell supervises 'Operation Emirates Solidarity.' Phase three aims at clearing 92,000 square kilometres. The UAE unit, in collaboration with other international bodies, has succeeded in clearing 472 square kilometres in the second phase of the project.



In the first phase of the operation, which was launched in October 2001, the UAE explosives experts have cleared more than 30,000 anti-personnel mines of various types in an area of nearly 3.3 million square metres. The area covers 137 land plots and fields, which have been handed back to their Lebanese owners while 13 other plots will be handed over shortly.



About 424 anti-tank mines, mostly placed by Israeli forces, have also been removed in areas close to the border and in towns such as Wazani, Qantara, Bayyadha and Marwahin. Citing military intelligence information, a report said that there are nearly 299 minefields in the area assigned to the UAE Armed Forces in southern Lebanon, containing at least 55,000 anti-personnel mines and 3,450 anti-tank mines. In the areas along the border, there are an estimated 846 minefields containing more than 254,000 anti-personnel mines and 4,230 anti-armour mines.



There are an estimated 28 types of mines, of which more than 90 per cent are Israeli-made. The rest include French, British, American and Russian mines, some of which have been left since World War II and subsequent wars in the region. "A total of more than 400,000 mines are believed to be planted in South Lebanon. They have disrupted the lives of the residents there and made them live in constant fear for a long time. Since May 2000, mines have claimed 190 lives," the report said.



The report said the operation would continue until all mines are cleared on orders by President Sheikh Zayed, the Supreme Commander of the Armed forces. According to UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammed Hamad Omran, the first two phases of the project has proved successful. "Phase I and Phase II have proved successful so far and this success stands as a testimony to the support given by the President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to Lebanon. Sheikh Zayed's initiative is a civilisational gesture.



Through it, the deadly weapon which threatens the lives of the residents of the area every moment through the networks of landmines planted all over around their homes, farms and roads, is being removed." Omran said the ongoing cooperation among Lebanon, the UAE and the UN represented a model of humanitarian international relations. He underscored the need for utmost efforts from all sides, including the UN, to ensure the swift implementation of the project.



Since its launch, the operation has received plaudits from the United Nations, the international community, and the Lebanese community in particular. Sheikh Zayed's gesture was highly appreciated by the Lebanese government and people. Sheikh Zayed attached great importance to clearing south Lebanon of landmines to help rehabilitate it and assist the people to return to their homes and fields and resume rebuilding in peace.



As a token of appreciation, Sheikh Zayed has recently received two shields from the Lebanese community in the country in appreciation of his continued support for Lebanon. The community leaders said that the shields were a token of gratitude to Sheikh Zayed's uninterrupted support for Lebanon and his donation of US$50 million for the project. The Lebanese community's gratitude for Sheikh Zayed coincided with the first anniversary of the liberation of south Lebanon from the Israeli occupation. (The Khaleej Times)

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