By Zhang Cunning
The temporary border marked by a “blue line” between south Lebanon and Israel is barely inhabited except a number of sentry posts, but many young soldiers wearing protective suits and holding mine detectors work here on workdays. They are minesweepers from the Chinese and Cambodian peacekeeping forces of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Chinese and Cambodian peacekeepers joining hands
The two contingents were responsible for the minefields on the slope to the Lebanon side of the Blue Line, about 600 meters away from each other. I arrived here on June 12 this year, along with 64 minesweepers from the 18th Chinese peacekeeping multifunctional engineer contingent, and worked side by side with the Cambodian peacekeepers.
At the beginning of mine-sweeping mission, the Cambodian contingent helped us blaze a secure path with their multi-purpose mine clearing vehicles. Then I led my team to make preparations including striking piles, putting up cordon, digging pits for mine detectors within the secured path, and cleared up six operation lanes before formally starting the mine-sweeping mission
Ever since arriving at the minefield, we’ve detected the No.4 anti-personnel mines planted by Israel in the 1970s almost every day and successfully disposed of them. Sometimes we could clear up more than 20 mines each day, which gave me a great sense of gratification.
Tasked with special operations
Upon the request of Cambodian peacekeepers and according to the order of UNIFIL, our explosive ordnance disposal team began to provide technical support for the manual mine-clearing team of the Cambodian multifunctional engineer contingent in late July.
The minefield has changed significantly due to perennial rainfalls and the passage of time. More than two months on, we found a 3-meter-wide belt stretching from the mountain top to the foot, where numerous mines were mislaid and almost all of them have been displaced.
After careful research, we determined that it was a dry stream and it was probable that the mines have been washed away outside the minefield and covered by thick soil. But the mine detector’s maximal working depth was only 20cm, and manual operation was extremely dangerous as the mines might be piled up.
According to the circumstance, the Cambodian side drove their multi-purpose mine clearing vehicles into the Chinese minefield. The two sides found the five land mines piled in the periphery of the minefield, which were cleared by our explosive ordnance disposal team on the same day.
Sharing same aspiration
As the only two UNIFIL contingents qualified for mine and explosive clearing, the Chinese and Cambodian minesweepers worked closely together in mutual support and kept the Lebanese people out of mine danger.
During the half-year-long mine-sweeping mission, more than 2,000 anti-personnel mines have been disposed of, among which 997 were cleared by Cambodian peacekeepers with our assistance. As nearly 10,000 square meters of land is cleared of mine danger, the mine-sweeping mission of the Chinese and Cambodian contingents is coming to an end.
“I want to thank the explosive ordnance disposal team of Chinese peacekeeping force. They help us complete the mine-clearing mission successfully!” said commander of the Cambodian contingent in mid-December during talks with UNIFIL officers at the mind field.
“To clear up the mines is our common responsibility and global peace is the common aspiration of all people in the world,” said Gao Chaoning, commander of the 18th Chinese peacekeeping contingent to Lebanon, on behalf of all minesweepers.
(Interviewed and arranged by Sun Shuai, correspondent for the PLA Daily)