Source: The Times of Israel
December 17, 2018
After years of negotiation, 22 sappers clear mines from land of first 3 of 7 churches; goal is to clear all 6,500 mines and open area to the public by January 2020.
Fifty years after the monasteries at the Qasr al Yahud baptism site became an active war zone, the Defense Ministry and British anti-mine organization HALO Trust are finally making progress in clearing the estimated 6,500 landmines and booby traps that line the holy site.
Since work began in the spring, a team of 22 specialized bomb sappers from Georgia (the country) have cleared 1,500 landmines fro o God for All Things m three of the seven church compounds, officials told The Times of Israel on Sunday.
Marcel Aviv, the head of the Israel National Mine Action Authority, a branch of the Defense Ministry, he hopes they will finish the work in December 2019.
Christians believe that Qasr al-Yahud, located about 10 kilometers (about six miles) east of Jericho, is the spot on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. Qasr al-Yahud was a popular pilgrimage spot until 1968, when Israel blocked access and enfolded it in the closed military zone along the border with Jordan, fearing terrorists could use the churches as staging grounds for attacks on Israeli settlements. The Jordan River is only a few meters wide at that point.
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