Defense Ministry clears minefield near settlement, pledges new housing on site

Detonation of buried bombs near Karnei Shomron part of broader project to blow up some 2,200 landmines across West Bank, ostensibly making way for more building

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

A Defense Ministry unit began clearing a minefield outside the Karnei Shomron settlement Tuesday, paving the way for the expansion of the Jewish community in the northern West Bank.

The Israeli National Mine Action Authority blew up 13 anti-tank landmines that had been hidden underground for some 70 years, Karnei Shomron Local Council chairman Yigal Lahav said in a Facebook post.

The detonations were part of a widespread Defense Ministry operation to detonate some 2,200 other landmines throughout the West Bank.

The idea for the project was sparked a year ago when one of those landmines went off unexpectedly, causing a fire that burned down six caravans in the Ramat Gilad outpost, a neighborhood of Karnei Shomron.

“When I became defense minister, I promised to expand settlements. Today we kept our promise,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted.

“Soon, instead of the minefield, we will build new housing units in Karnei Shomron,” he added.

However, no construction plan is even in the works and the settlement is still in the process of registering the land.

Nevertheless, Lahav said that Tuesday’s operation would allow for the construction of at least 1,200 housing units.

Deputy defense minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home), who spearheaded the project, wrote in a Facebook post that the clearing of landmines across the West Bank will allow for one million Jews to live beyond the Green Line.

“Building in Judea and Samaria is not a dirty word, it is our duty to the citizens of the state,” he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

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