The New Zealand Defence Force’s year long commitment to the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre in Southern Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) has ended.
Over the past twelve months, thirty NZDF personnel have worked to clear unexploded ordnance scattered over farmland and village areas after the thirty day war between Israel and Hezbollah that ended in August 2006.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Rhys Jones, says that although New Zealand’s contribution has been small and at a local level, there's now a large group of Lebanese hugely appreciative of the efforts of the team and can continue their daily lives in safety.
“Our people have worked in incredibly dangerous and physically demanding circumstances and their professionalism and precision in this role have been recognised as being second to none. The message is the same wherever we have New Zealand Defence Force people deployed. These are ordinary people, who could be your neighbour, doing amazing things in unbelievable circumstances. We are proud of them and glad to have them home safely."
The initial UNMACC-SL project had targeted the clearance of 32 million m2 of land in Lebanon over 18 months with completion in December 2007, with the first NZDF team arriving six months into the project. Sixty teams have worked on this substantial task and the final target was reported complete on 14 December 2007.
The Kiwi teams regularly cleared substantially more area with fewer searchers than other organisations. Their twelve months in theatre saw them clear 315,493 m2, including the complete township of Khirbet Silim. 1824 unexploded munitions, the majority being cluster bombs, were destroyed.