Landmines in Lebanon: An Historic
Overview and the Current Situation
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estimates approximate the number of landmines in Lebanon to be
about 150,000. Funding and assistance from various organizations
and governments are helping the country cope with its landmine
situation and the resulting problems.
by Harald A. Wie, Mine Action
Advisor, UNDP/ERD Lebanon
There are many areas that still need surveying in
It is estimated that 150,000 landmines
of all categories are currently in Lebanon. The exact location of most
of these weapons remains unknown. In addition, a large number of UXO
continues to pose a serious threat to local populations, particularly in
Following the end of the war,
landmines became one of the most serious problems facing civilians as
they began to reclaim their homes and undertake the post-war
reconstruction process. The problem was particularly acute in the
capital of Beirut. In an attempt to effectively address the situation,
engineering units of the Lebanese Army subsequently conducted
reconnaissance and assessment missions to gather detailed information
about the mine fields and suspected areas in order to commence mine
Recognizing the serious humanitarian
nature of the problem and with a determination to further strengthen
their mine action capacity, the Lebanese authorities have asked the
United Nations for support.
Since 1978, the United Nations Interim
Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has maintained a presence of over 4,500 troops
in the southern region of the country whose mandate is to confirm the
withdrawal of Israeli forces and to restore international peace and
security. UNIFIL is also charged with the responsibility of assisting
the government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective
authority in the southern region (SC RES 425). On 31 July 2001, the
Security Council extended its mandate until 31 January 2002 (SC RES
The Lebanese Army
According to military
sources, landmines were emplaced in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. The
majority of the parties who participated in the war used landmines to
consolidate their defensive positions along the demarcation lines, which
have moved many times. Most of these landmines were deployed
indiscriminately and hastily without any records. Only some of the mine
fields and suspected areas are fenced and marked.
Since 1990, mine clearance, addressing
humanitarian and rehabilitation needs, has been conducted successfully
by the Engineer Regiment of the Lebanese Army, which is well structured
to implement these tasks. According to a briefing paper that was made
available to the mission team 743 mine fields with approximately 3,183
AT mines and 24,271 AP mines were counted in Lebanese territory, except
the occupied areas, as of December 1998. Of these, 471 mine fields and
suspected areas were treated, and almost 2,383 AT mines and 23,693 AP
mines and a large number of UXO were removed between 13 October 1990 and
1 December 1998 by the Engineer Regiment. According to sources, 208
treated/cleared mine fields are still suspected of being unsafe. In
addition, an estimated 30,000 items of unexploded ordnance are scattered
in the Lebanese Territories occupied by Israel.
The AP mines laid by the Lebanese Army
and/or militias and non-Lebanese parties are of Russian, Belgian,
France, Israeli, Italian, Chinese, U.S. and Swedish origin. Some of the
mines are of a low-metal variety that makes them difficult to detect,
and they have an almost unlimited life span. The AT mines are mostly of
Russian, Italian, Yugoslavian and U.S. origin.
According to information provided to
the team by the commander of the engineer regiment, the total number of
mine fields and suspected areas which were untreated was 272, as of 1
December 1998. They know according to the records that there are 24 AT
and 2881 AP mines in the fields. But, there are numerous contaminated
areas throughout the country that remain unknown and require survey.
Although most of the mined areas have
been cleared by the military, the actual status of these clearing
operations remains unknown. As a result, mines and UXO are often found
by farmers, who usually inform the local NGOs or authorities. The army
disposes of mines by detonating them in place.
The Ministry of Social
Affairs with the United Nation Population Fund (UNPF) has registered
handicapped persons by type and cause in Lebanon in 1996. Cause is
subdivided into five categories: 1) accident, 2) since birth, 3)
illness, 4) war and 5) others. Mine and UXO accidents are included in
the ‘war’ category, which includes 11.9 percent (3,561 persons) of
the national total of 29,866 handicapped persons. This of course does
not include those killed
by mines or UXO.1
In 1996, the World Rehabilitation Fund
(WRF) and the Ministry of Health with several community based
organizations (CBOs) undertook a survey of the Lebanese landmine
problem. Their findings concluded that in 52 out of 65 villages, the
civilian accidents from 1975 to 1996 resulted in 212 injuries and 189
deaths out of a total population of 200,000. The details of this study
show that the majority of the accidents occurred during specific events
such as Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the 1991 return of
previously displaced civilians to the area.
Following the end of the conflict in
1990, the Lebanese armed forces began to address the threat posed by
mines. According to the military, between 1990 and 1998 the majority of
known and identified mine fields has been cleared. The Engineering
Regiment consists of four demining companies with a total of 240
deminers. The mine clearance operation, addressing the humanitarian and
rehabilitation needs, has been successfully conducted. Their work is
often reactive rather than proactive because they are responsible for
all countrywide mine clearance/UXO operations. Quite frequently, their
work is interrupted, delayed or stopped altogether because of emergency
requests from downtown Beirut or other areas.
The clearance operations were mostly
conducted by manual techniques (prodding) rather then with technical
means like mine detectors. Deminers are reluctant to use them since the
majority of the AP mines tend to be plastic, and the land is saturated
with metallic fragments and shrapnel. Because mine fields are often
located away from roads in areas inaccessible to mechanical devices, it
is impossible to use rollers. Progress is slow, though there is a need
to operate with great speed and effectiveness. To strengthen local
capacities, the U.S. government has provided technical assistance
towards developing and upgrading human and technical demining
To economize future activity,
coordination started among all concerned on developing an operational
plan of action at the national level. It was launched by the Lebanese
Army, governmental agencies, NGOs and CBOs within the framework of the
National Demining Office (NDO). The NDO was created in accordance with
Council of Ministers’ resolution No. 29 of 15 April 1998. The main
goal of the NDO is to clear the country of landmines and UXO, and
increase the Lebanese population’s awareness of the problem, and
prevent further injury through mine awareness programs and campaigns.
Mine clearance priorities are
established by the NDO and presented to the Chief of Operations for
approval. The requirements for mine clearance are submitted to the NDO
by ministries and other sources in an ad-hoc manner.
Mine awareness education is being
undertaken within the NDO and is implemented by the Lebanese Army, NGOs
and CBOs. The WRF provides the financial support and technical
assistance for these activities. No attempt by this assessment team has
been made to evaluate either current mine awareness programs or the
various communication strategies to disseminate messages.
Currently, mine awareness programs are
being undertaken in targeted areas by the Lebanese Army and the NGO
community in coordination with local CBOs. A Technical Committee on Mine
Awareness has been established in partnership involving the WRF, the
Landmine Resource Centre and the NGO community.
Although the Lebanese government
appears to be sympathetic towards the international ban on anti-personnel
landmines, due to the ongoing conflict, it is currently unwilling to
sign the Ottawa Convention and the amended Protocol II of the Convention
on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The government of Lebanon has
indicated its intention to sign both Landmine Conventions as soon as GA
Resolution 425 is successfully implemented and the government of Israel
signs the same Conventions.
The Situation after
the Withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)
In May 2000, the IDF withdrew from
South Lebanon. Since then, it has handed over maps and sketches to
UNIFIL, which has transferred the maps to the government of Lebanon. The
maps contain an overview and information about 108 border mine fields,
15 inland mine fields and 288 booby traps. The coverage and the accuracy
of these maps are still controversial.
Scope of the Problem
While information on the landmine and
UXO problem in South Lebanon still remains incomplete, it is anticipated
that an estimated 150,000 landmines are spread across the country.
Impact of the Problem
Mines and UXO have so far caused a
relatively low number of injuries. This is likely to change with the
anticipated return of displaced populations, who are unaware of the
threat and of the location of dangerous areas. The problem will
complicate the return of displaced persons and may hinder long-term
reconstruction and socio-economic development of the region. In the 14
months following the withdrawal, there have been 139 civilian mine
casualties (15 fatalities2).
The Lebanese Army has a landmine database to record mine areas in
Lebanon and completion reports—though details are still not known to
The responsibility for coordinating
mine action activities in Lebanon rests with the NDO, established by
decree in 1998 as part of the Army and fully staffed by military
officers. The NDO has interacted with all concerned partners, including
the Lebanese Red Cross and concerned NGOs, such as the Landmine
Resources Center (LMRC) at Balamand University. At the International
High Level Workshop on Mine Action in May, the NDO presented its
National Strategic Mine Action Plan for Lebanon 2001—2006.
National Mine Awareness activities
have been undertaken by NDO in close cooperation with UNICEF, ICRC, LRC,
WRF and LMRC funded by USAID.
Mine Marking and Clearance
The Lebanese Army reportedly has about
120 deminers operating throughout Lebanon.
Mine Victims Assistance
South Lebanon benefits from a good
network of first aid posts managed by the Lebanese Red Cross and good
hospitals. However, pre-hospital care is one of the parts of the health
care system in Lebanon that needs to be strengthened.
UN System Response:
Improving National Capacity and Coordination
In 1999 United Nations Mine Action (UNMAS) conducted a Mine Action Assessment mission to Lebanon, and in
addition UNMAS followed up with an initial mine action assessment
mission to south Lebanon over the period 26 March – 1 June 2000. This
mission confirmed the findings done by the Joint Assessment Mission, and
it also included a recommendation to establish a coordination mechanism
Since these missions, the UNDP country
office has been involved with follow-up activities to strengthen
national capacity on a limited basis in its technical assistance
capacity. A UN Mine Action Advisor is currently assisting the NDO to
develop a National Humanitarian Mine Action Plan.
In February 2001, a joint UNMAS and
visited Lebanon in order to assess how the UN system could assist the
government in order to accelerate mine action activities beginning with
the south and how to strengthen the long term national capacity. The
mission produced an "Outline Strategy for the Assistance to Mine
Action in Lebanon."
The aim of this paper is to provide an
outline strategy for United Nations assistance to mine action in
Lebanon. Clarity of purpose regarding development assistance, as well as
accountability and transparency in its application, are essential to
successful international cooperation. The timely and efficient use of
external assistance resources will help to accelerate the important work
already begun by the Government of Lebanon through the NDO in addressing
the impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance on the reconstruction
and development of Lebanon. The objectives of the strategy are:
To ensure the acceleration of
mine action operations, particularly in the south.
To assist the government of Lebanon
in strengthening its capacity in all areas of mine action.
Based on Inter-Agency Mission Report
and the UN Outline Strategy UNDP, in cooperation with the National
Demining Office, has developed a Capacity Building Project Document for
the support of the NDO.
Last May (one year after the
withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces) the government of Lebanon in
cooperation with UNDP/PRSG’s Office, sponsored by the Italian
Government, arranged an "International High Level Workshop on Mine
Action in Lebanon" in Beirut/Nabathiet. At this workshop the
Personal Representative for the Secretary General (PRSG) announced the
establishment of an "International Support Group" (ISG) for
Mine Action in Lebanon. At the workshop, the UAE announced its pledge of
$50 million (U.S.) for demining operations in South Lebanon. Both
initiatives are currently closely followed up by the PRSG’s Office and
Ongoing and Future
At the end of February 2001 the U.S.
started up a Mine Dog Detection (MDD) training program in partnership
with the NDO and will provide the Lebanese Armed Forces with a MDD
capacity consisting of 18 dogs during the next 12 months.
Mines Advisory Group (MAG), UK in
partnership with the NDO, has trained 15 civilian deminers through a
six-month mine clearance project in Nabatieh funded by ECHO. This
project is likely to be extended for 12 more months with funds from the
EU. The Italian NGO Asso Bon has just finalized a one-month clearance
An Information Management System for
Mine Action (IMSMA) is currently operational within UNIFIL through a
Mine Action Coordination Cell (MACC) provided by UNMAS. Version 2 of the
IMSMA will soon be established at the NDO office in Beirut.
A National (Socio-Economic) Impact
Survey has been designed and will soon be conducted by the NDO, and
funded by the EU.
MAG, in partnership with the NDO and
with funding from the UN Voluntary Trust Fund and the Norwegian
government, will start a level Two Technical Survey during the next
couple of months.
Other UN Assistance
to National and Local Authorities
Based on the recommendation in the
UNMAS’s reports, the following initiatives have been taken during June
2000 and June 2001. Ref. UN Portfolio of Mine-related projects May 2001.
UNDP contracted a Mine Action
Advisor (MAA) in June 2000 to work on a capacity building project
for the NDO. The MAA’s current contract with UNDP/ERD expires on
The UNOPS/UNMAS established the
MACC/UNIFIL July 2000-Dec. 2001.
The NDO had one senior officer at
the senior Management Training Course at Cranfield University in
Invitation of the Director of the
NDO to the UNOPS Management training NY, Oct. 2000.
The Director of the NDO was
invited to UNMAS fourth Meeting of Mine Action Programme Directors
and Advisors at the GICHD International Workshop in February 2001.
The Director of the NDO was
invited to the Senior Mine Action Manager course at Cranfield
University in August 2001.
A study tour to take the Director
of the NDO and one representative from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs to visit countries that are in the same or similar
situation, has been funded by the Norwegian government, and this
project will be conducted later in 2001.
training on IMSMA in Geneva in September 2000. The NDO and the Landmine
Resource Center participated.
Through the Ministry of Defence, the
NDO and the Lebanese Army had four participants at the IMAS training in
Beirut on 3-4 July 2001.
The National Demining office determines priority
Two donor meetings were held in 2000.
The first was an UN/Donor meeting in July with a field trip to south
Lebanon that was conducted by UNDP in cooperation with the NDO.
second meeting was conducted in November, but unfortunately the NDO
could not attend.
Quality Control, Training, and
In September, a NGO conference, funded
by the Italian Government, took place in Beirut, and one of the issues
was Mine Action. The NDO participated and made a presentation of its
National Mine Action Plan.
On May 21-22 an International High
Level Workshop for demining Lebanon starting with the South was
conducted in Beirut with a field trip to Nabathiet on the second day to
see demonstrations of various demining techniques and tools. The Italian
Government also funded this workshop.
The government of Lebanon was invited
to the Second Meeting of States Parties, in Geneva, in September 2000.
The Government of Lebanon was invited
to the third Meeting of States Parties, in September 2001.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) pledged
$50 million (U.S.) for demining operations in south Lebanon at the
International High Level Workshop (IHLW) in May. A Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) between the government of Lebanon (GoL) and the UAE
is currently in progress.
At the IHLW, the PRSG announced the
establishment of an International Support Group (ISG) for Demining in
Lebanon was made by the PRSG. The practical arrangements to establish
the ISG are in progress.
UNDP, in cooperation with the NDO, has
designed a Pro Doc for capacity building (CB) of the NDO. The Pro Doc
has been verbally introduced to the Minister of Defense; however, it is
currently with the Director of the NDO for final consideration.
UNDP, through advocacy efforts, has
made a sound foundation for a future cooperation not only with the NDO
but also at the Minister of Defense level as well as with the Lebanese
The donor community in Lebanon is
still eager to assist the GoL to solve the mine problem. The government
of Lebanon, however, must acknowledge the ownership to mine action by
providing the necessary mechanisms with the international community, to
provide transparency, accountability and efficiency.
• UNMAS Joint Mine Action Assessment Mission,
• UN Portfolio of Mine-Related Projects, April 2001.
• The Outline Strategy for UN Assistance to Mine
Action in Lebanon, May 2001.
• UNDP Project Document for the Support of the
National Demining Office, June 2001.
• Website : www.undp.org.lb
1) Lebanon Assessment Mission Report, 1999
2) Source: Landmine Resource Center, July 2001
3) Emergency Response Division
*All photos courtesy of the author.
Harald A. Wie
Mine Action Advisor
United Nations House
P.O. Box 11-3216
Riad El-Solh Square
Tel: 961 1 981 301, Ext: 1721