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From danger zone to organic pepper farm: Israel targets mine fields

Israel is removing 7,000 land mines placed along the border by the country's military in 1968.

NEOT HAKIKAR, Israel -- The usually sleepy border between Israel and Jordan is being disturbed by the sounds of explosions. At the lowest place on earth south of the Dead Sea, Israel has started a huge project to clear 7,000 M-35 anti-personnel mines.

Neot Hakikar is an agricultural zone situated near the border with Jordan. It is receiving a facelift with the help of the "Mine Wolf" -- a specialized mine-clearing vehicle. Its spinning drum has metal teeth that turn up the ground and destroy any mines in its path.

The mines were planted by the Israeli Army in 1968 in a bid to stop Jordanian soldiers from crossing the border. Israel now wants to grow organic peppers on the land.


 "Our goal is to ... release the land in order to give it back to the people," said Michael Hyman of the Israel National Mine Authority.

The sight of these mines blowing up one-by-one provides a sad reminder of a friend who took his family on a trip to the Golan Heights last year. The Golan is known for its beauty but also for the high number of mines left during the 1973 war between the Israel and Syria. My friend's 11-year-old son was playing in the snow when he stepped on a land mine. It exploded and the boy lost one of his legs.

The demining operation is the first of its kind in Israel and follows a new law passed by the country's parliament. Authorities aim to clear some 32,500 acres of land and an estimated 700,000 mines. 

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