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Landmines

 

Below you find 4 selected articles been written in the last years about land mines in Egypt.
We do not sign responsible for the contents, but find them interesting enough to show them below.

 

 

Egypt plagued with 22,7 million Landmines

 

Egypt, Environment, 6/23/2000

Egypt is one of the countries that have the largest number of landmines. The Middle East is one of the most heavily mined regions in the world. Egypt alone has one quarter of the world's landmines buried in its deserts, most leftover from the Second World War.

"Although, Egypt has long lobbied for international assistance to remove the deadly weapons, but it has refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty on the Prohibition of Landmines because it focuses on banning mines, not clearing them, and doesn't specify who would pay", Egypt's Permanent Delegate to the UN, Ahmed Abul Gheit said.

Egypt's government did pledge to attend the December signing ceremony in Ottawa, as observers since Egypt has a strong interest in getting rid of landmines, but even stronger reservations about the treaty, Abul Gheit added.

"While cost of dumping a mine ranges from $5 to $30, clearance costs $300 to $400. In the 1980s, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Germany contributed about $20 million for training and equipment, in addition to Satellite photography to determine the extent of the problem and help locate minefields" Mary Fawler, UN Coordinator for Landmines Affairs said.

"The past two years have demonstrated that a new standard of behavior is being established, completely rejecting antipersonnel mines. Those who won't sign the ban treaty should be stigmatized; those who continue to use this indiscriminate weapon should be ostracized," said Elizabeth Bernstein, Coordinator of the ICBL.

The ICBL calls on all governments to accede to or ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and to implement it fully by assisting victims of landmines, removing mines already laid, destroying stockpiled mines, and never again using, producing or exporting this perverse weapon.

Activities around the Globe on the Second Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the 1997 Landmines Convention and International Day for Disabled Persons. Egypt's Landmines Struggle Center, ICRC-Cairo and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights organized a seminar on Landmines in Cairo with a screening of an ICRC film on the Treaty in Arabic.

Cairo announced the establishment of a center for combating mines, and to remove more than 23 million mines planted in Egypt. This center constitutes the first civilian attempt in the region to combat the danger of mines and prevent their use and manufacture.

Moreover the center will observe the areas where mines are planted in Egypt, to warn the inhabitants to avoid them and arrange for international, regional and domestic campaigns in cooperation with the international organizations for clearing the regions.

The Egyptian authorities are seeking to clear the border regions of mines. Egypt's problem stems from the fact that its landmines are old and hard to locate and were designed for use against tanks, whereas international criticism is generally focused on antipersonnel mines.The western desert, scene of one of the major second world war battles--El Alamine--was littered with 20 million mines by the armies.

Later, Egypt and Israel combined to dump more than 6 million mines in the Sinai desert and the region of the Gulf of Suez during the wars in 1967 and 1973. Many of those mines are booby-trapped. Seven million mines have been cleared from the western desert in the past 15 years and three million from the Sinai desert. But Egypt has set the year 2006 as the target for finally ridding its sands of land mines, but it is anxious not to left alone in paying for and carrying out this huge task.


Deadly legacy

By Amira Ibrahim


For over 50 years, since the end of World War II, Egyptians have been paying the price of conflicts they were not responsible for. Yesterday's enemies are today's allies, their past conflicts largely forgotten -- buried in the ground along with the deadly mines they left behind.

In events leading up to the 1942 Battle of Al-Alamein, 19.7 million land-mines were planted in the Western Desert by Britain, Germany and Italy. In the Sinai Peninsula, about 14 million land-mines and explosives, mostly the work of Israel, are leftovers of the 1956 and 1967 Middle East wars.

It was only in 1981 that the government launched a comprehensive plan to remove these mines. Implementation was, and continues to be, the responsibility of the engineering corps of the armed forces.

According to figures released by the armed forces, the wars in the Western Desert and the Sinai Peninsula have left behind 33.7 million land-mines planted under 391,000 hectares. In the past 18 years, the armed forces have managed to remove 11.8 million land-mines: 8.8 million in Sinai and 3 million in the Western Desert.

The 1990s witnessed an intensive international campaign to ban land-mines, starting with the Brussels Declaration of 1995. It was followed by a 1996 UN General Assembly resolution calling for international assistance in the removal of minefields and the Oslo Declaration of 1997.

But no statement was made that Western nations should bear full responsibility for the removal of land-mines they planted in other countries, such as Egypt. The removal of land-mines has been a permanent fixture on the agenda of Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and other high-ranking military officials who exchange visits with British, German and Italian top brass.

During a recent visit to Rome by Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Magdi Hatata, Italy agreed to step up its contribution to efforts directed at the removal of land-mines. According to military sources, Italy will offer technical assistance, organise training programmes for officers and foot part of the bill.

But in an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Hazem, commander of the engineering corps, said the assistance offered by the countries responsible for planting the land-mines continues to fall short of what is required. "We need 2,000 mine-sweepers, but we received only 110 from Germany and 75 from Britain in addition to a British grant of £500,000 provided between 1981 and 1991. As for Italy, it offered a training programme for 20 officers," Hazem said. "The removal of a single mine costs between $300 to $1,000," Hazem added. "This means that Egypt needs approximately $250 million to remove the 21.9 million mines that are still buried on its territory."

The Sinai land-mines do not pose any danger and are not in the way of investment and development. The minefields of the Western Desert, however, pose a big problem. "We received maps from Britain, records of minefields from Germany and books and illustrations from Italy explaining the types of mines that were used," Hazem said. "They are useful but, unfortunately, they are not enough."

Hazem explained that in addition to the recorded minefields, new ones are often discovered by the removal units. "There are 16.7 million land-mines buried underneath 248,000 hectares in the Western Desert," Hazem said. "This is a very large area and maps and records are often inaccurate. Moreover, as a result of rain, wind and the movement of sand dunes, the mines are subject to continual displacement. And because they have been buried for decades, the mines have become even more dangerous."

According to Hazem, 8,800 civilians and military personnel have been killed or maimed by the Western Desert mines. The experience gained by the engineering corps in dealing with land-mines since 1981 was put to good use during the 1991 Gulf War. The engineering corps also removed 520 land-mines and 800 explosives from a 15,000-hectare area before a development project was launched east of Port Said.

"Investors who wish to take part in development projects in the Western Desert and Sinai can request the assistance of the armed forces in the detection and removal of any buried mines," Hazem said. "We do not lack experience," Hazem said. "We lack funds. But financing should be the responsibility of those who planted the mines."

As a result, the removal of land-mines will remain tied to the government's ability to provide financing since the countries responsible refuse to foot the bill for their actions.


Egypt's landmines are old and hard to locate in The Devil's Garden

Egypt, Politics, 9/10/1997

Countries are edging towards signing an international treaty banning anti-personnel land mines in December, but this initiative brings up new problems to be solved.

Egypt's problem stems from the fact that its land mines are old and hard to locate and were designed for use against tanks, whereas international criticism is generally focused on anti-personnel mines. According to the ministry of defense, mines have hampered human and economic development and have killed and injured thousands of civilians.

The western desert, scene of one of the major second world war battles--El Alamine--was littered with 20 million mines by the armies. Later, Egypt and Israel combined to dump more than 6 million mines in the Sinai desert and the region of the Gulf of Suez during the wars in 1967 and 1973. Many of those mines are booby-trapped. The nomadic people refer to waste tracks of desert minefields as "The Devil's Garden". The military analysts said that storms have increased the depth at which many land mines are buried by eight meters, thus ruling out the use of normal mine-detection methods.

The trigger mechanisms on many of the weapons have corroded. Mines that were intended to be set off by the hefty bulk of a tank may be detonated by weight of a baby. And some explode by themselves. Besides nomadic casualties, victims have included soldiers and off-the-beaten-track tourists.

Seven million mines have been cleared from the western desert in the past 15 years and three million from the Sinai desert. That leaves at least 20 million others. But Egypt has set the year 2006 as the target for finally ridding its sands of land mines, but it is anxious not to left alone in paying for and carrying out this huge task.

While cost of dumping a mine ranges from $5 to $30, clearance costs $300 to $400. In the 1980s, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Germany contributed about $20 million for training and equipment, in addition to satellite photography to determine the extent of the problem and help locate minefields.

Foreign donations have now dried up, however, and since 1990, Egypt has spent $70 million on de-mining. The government estimates that another $200 million is needed to finish the task. The establishment has been criticized for taking too long to deal with the problem, but Cairo says it was unable to start tackling the menace until it made peace with Israel.


Egypt high on land mine campaign list

Middle East Times 8/99 - Reuters

Nobel peace prize winner Jody Williams said in Cairo recently her campaign for an international ban on anti-personnel land mines had decided to pay more attention to the "neglected" Middle East.

She told a news conference that Egypt, struggling with the deadly legacy of land mines laid in its Western Desert during World War II and in the Sinai Peninsula during wars with Israel, was a critically important country.

"I hope my visit here... helps to move us all towards eventually getting rid of this insidious weapon so that we can all live in a safer environment," Williams said.

Williams was due to visit Alamein in the Western Desert to see for herself part of the area where Egypt says Allied and Axis armies left 17.5 million land mines and other unexploded ordnance during World War II battles.

Egypt says about five million land mines are scattered in the Sinai Desert as a result of Arab-Israeli wars. Egypt, itself a land mine manufacturer, has not signed the Ottawa anti-personnel land mine ban convention. Such mines are blamed for killing or maiming more than 25,000 people around the world each year.

Williams said it was vital to maintain world interest in the issue and the campaign's momentum "because the international community has the attention span of a kindergarten child."

Egypt's top disarmament official at the Foreign Ministry, Mahmoud Karem, said his country welcomed the humanitarian aspect of Williams' campaign and wished her well.

 


 

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