Anti-Tank Landmine Kills IDF Soldier area denial weapon kills illegitimate occupier
How do you walk through a landmine?
I grew up next to the Jordan River. Its western bank had a minefield blocking access to the river, denying even stolen glimpses at its historic waters. Nearby, our kibbutz was surrounded by several concentric circles of barbed wire; landmines had been laid in between them. It was nothing but a Zionist concentration camp. At school, our teachers told us horror stories about the Nazi regime; the stories draw images similar to those surrounding us, including the wild dogs next to the barbed wire. Years later, even sworn Zionists agreed that some of the stories were made up, like the one claiming that our grandparents had been made into soap by the Nazis. The infamous soap bars didn’t contain human DNA. The stories were nothing but a mental landmine that instilled fear in us, transforming the Zionists’ children into manipulable by the violent State.
Over time, I spent roughly two years of my military service in the Golan Heights. The situation was so acute that we were forbidden to step outside paved areas unless within a stronghold or in an emergency. Even now, I keep several rules learned there; walking on exposed ground is not something I do mindlessly.
Following Operation Defensive Shield, I escaped Zion. During my first period of exile, I repeatedly crossed an area plagued with landmines, reminder of an ugly war. By then, there was little chance I would step on one of those beasts chasing me since childhood.
A key issue while crossing an area suspected as being a landmine is not to assume anything. Oddly enough, Western science often falls into this conceptual trap, designing experiments as per the desired results. While walking through a suspect area, one is constantly making tiny scientific experiments in an attempt to elucidate the landmines location; avoiding false assumptions is key to foil Tabloid Science.
Such an assumption may be in the form of: “This is an anti-tank minefield. These landmines are activated by a substantial weight. Thus, I can play soccer here.”
A related error is: “This is an old minefield. They probably got awry. I can walk here.” Landmines are counterintuitive devices. They often are buried for decades. The TNT in them (within those of them containing this popular explosive) may deteriorate upon contact with water into unstable DNT. A landmine designed to explode after a heavy tank passes over it may be activated afterwards by a squalid squirrel.
Israel is not a signatory country to the Ottawa Treaty, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. The same is true for the related Convention on Cluster Munitions; the IDF is a main customer of American cluster bombs.
In 2010, the Knesset Research Center published a paper claiming that there are over a quarter million landmines deployed in Israel, occupying an area of over 33 million square meters of open space, farmland and near communities. In the occupied Golan Heights, 36 million square meters are marked as containing landmines.
In military terms, landmines often are defined as an “area denial weapon,” since their main target is to deter the enemy from entering a terrain. They can be removed, but the task is complex and time consuming. The IDF developed explosive devices like the “Tzefa” (“cobra” in Hebrew) to accomplish the task, but this is good only in limited cases and certainly not for areas to be used by civilians.
Israel’s behavior regarding landmines is more ambiguous than its nuclear policy. Last month, April 2013, it cleared an old landmine near the village of Husan in the West Bank. The Palestinians living there were so suspicious that they monitored the soldiers and the civilian company performing the miracle. They had a good reason for that. Despite the village being close to Bethlehem, it is surrounded by the Gush Etzion settlements, the largest Jewish area in the West Bank. Is Israel planning the evacuation of Husan?
Saving Private Alfi
Yesterday, May 21, a group of IDF sappers were undergoing a standard advanced training course near Moshav Yonatan on the Golan Heights. 19 Year-old Private Roey Yisrael Alfi stepped over an anti-tank landmine. The device, which contained about ten kilograms of explosives, exploded, killing Alfi on the spot. His friends were photographed later searching for his body parts in order to bring him to proper burial. Ironically, the “area denial weapon” attacked the illegitimate occupier.
His family made painful declarations to the press. His aunt Tamar said: “We don’t understand why they sent into a minefield soldiers that were only six months in the army. Who needs landmines in these days of our digital war?” Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shimon Daniel, until two years ago Commander of the Sapper Corps reacted: “Sending a sapper to train ‘on-dry’ would be like a pilot training only with a flight-simulator or an infantry soldier shooting only blanks.”
Alfi is not Ryan; Israel got another painful reminder of its illegitimate occupation.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.