Lebanon has been declared free of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) laid by ISIS following a five-year clearance project that has benefited thousands of people and seen almost three million square metres of land declared safe.
Hundreds of IEDs and lethal items of unexploded ordnance have been found and destroyed by MAG working in partnership with the Lebanese Mine Action Centre and Lebanese Armed Forces.
Many of those affected by the contamination and now benefiting from the clearance are farmers and shepherds, including Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their own country.
Families had to abandon their land during the conflict and were unable to resume farming until the land had been made safe by MAG.
The conflict in north east Lebanon saw ISIS and non-state armed group Jabhat Al Nusra wage war against the Lebanese Armed Forces, causing thousands of people to flee their homes.
An estimated 8 people have been killed or injured by the explosive devices left behind following the conflict in north east Lebanon.
MAG’s demining teams began survey and clearance of the land in Jroud Ras Baalback and Jroud Arsal, in thenorth east of the country, in 2018 following the defeat of ISIS after three years of bitter fighting between ISIS and the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Today (8th of September 2023), at an official ceremony in Ras Baalback, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Josef Aoun, declared the country free of ISIS-related explosive ordnance contamination and thanked the brave deminers who carried out the work.
General Aoun told the gathering: “Today, after six years, we would like to announce that the outskirts of Aarsal area and Ras Baalback are fully liberated and now completely free of remnants of war. The liberation on both fronts clearly shows our commitments towards our people in these areas and we ask them to return to, invest in and exploit their safe lands.
“And here we would like to reconfirm our commitment to clear the remaining Lebanese territories from anything that prevents the people’s access to them.”
United States Ambassador Dorothy C. Shea said: “Since 1998, the United States has invested more than $96 million in the clearance of landmines and other explosive hazards from every region of Lebanon. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Lebanese Armed Forces and MAG for the work your teams have performed over the past years. I know removing explosive remnants of war is a dangerous task. You have completed it with commendable passion and professionalism.”
Dutch Ambassador H.E. Hans Peter van der Woude said: “The importance of mine clearance is clear to us all. Every human casualty caused by mines is one too many. And there is more; especially in times of increased pressure on arable land and decreasing food security, the unlocking of previously contaminated land for agriculture is of the utmost importance.”
Mr Magoshi Masayuki, the Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon, added: “Japan believes that addressing mine contamination problems is an essential prerequisite for consolidating stability and laying the ground for comprehensive recovery. Indeed, the Japanese Government has been supporting mine clearance efforts across Lebanon since 2001, and has so far extended nearly $13M in grants to Lebanon.”
MAG Director of Programmes Greg Crowther said: “We are proud that our staff have played such a key role in ridding Lebanon of the terrible legacy left behind by ISIS. This was technically difficult, arduous and sometimes dangerous work but has had huge benefits for the local community.
“MAG has extensive experience of dealing with ISIS-related contamination through its work in Syria and Iraq so was able to apply this expertise in Lebanon to deliver effective and safe clearance operations.”
“None of this could have been achieved without the support of our donors - the US, Dutch, Japan and British governments, as well as the European Union - and our very positive partnership with the Lebanese Mine Action Centre.”
Read more about our work in Lebanon here.
Header photo by Maryam Ashrafi.