Published: 2018-03-21 10:39
Last Updated: 2018-03-21 10:55
A major operation to clear around 3,000 landmines had begun on Wednesday at Qasr al-Yahud Site, the Israeli-claimed Jesus’ baptism site controlled by Israel. It is located on the Palestinian occupied side on the banks of the Jordan River.
The Israeli Defense Ministry said demining operations were jointly launched by the Israeli National Mine Action Authority (INMAA) and the UK-based demining group, HALO Trust. Both demining companies will work to clear explosive remnants that cover an estimated one million square meters of land in a process that will take around one year.
"This is a very exciting and long-awaited day indeed," director of the National Mine Action Authority, Marcel Aviv said in a statement, claiming that the demining of such a significant place is “unique and wonderful opportunity”.
"The cleaning and releasing of these lands, and the ability to return them to their religious guardians is a project we take great pride in," said Aviv.
Explosive devices were concealed in the area during the six-day war of 1967, to prevent Jordanian soldiers and tanks in addition to the Palestinians from entering the Israeli-claimed territory that was closed to public access due to security reasons.
The Defense Ministry said the church plots will be opened to denominations and visitors to visit the holy sites once INMAA and HALO officials assure the site is safe.