UN official says it could take 14 years to clear debris in Gaza

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 5:38 AM

GENEVA (Reuters) – The vast amount of rubble including unexploded ordnance left by Israel’s devastating war in the Gaza Strip could take about 14 years to remove, a United Nations official said on Friday.

Israel’s military campaign against Gaza’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has reduced much of the narrow, coastal territory of 2.3 million people to a wasteland with most civilians homeless, hungry and at risk of disease.

Pehr Lodhammar, senior officer at the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), told a briefing in Geneva that the war had left an estimated 37 million tons of debris in the widely urbanised, densely populated territory.

He said that although it was impossible to determine the exact number of unexploded ordnance found in Gaza, it was projected that it could take 14 years under certain conditions to clear debris, including rubble from destroyed buildings.

“We know that typically there’s a failure rate of at least 10% of land service ammunition that is being fired and fails to function,” he said. “We’re talking about 14 years of work with 100 trucks.”

Hamas ignited the war with a shock incursion into southern Israel in which militants killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Hamas is believed to still be holding 129 hostages out of the 253 it took on Oct. 7.

At least 34,305 Palestinians have been killed and 77,293 wounded in Israel’s military offensive on Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Heinrich)