Jerusalem: An operation to clear minefields near Israel's Red Sea port of Eilat has been successfully completed, Israel's defence ministry announced Monday.
The ministry's Mine Clearing Authority (MCA) has finished clearing 500 dunams (123 acres) of minefields in the vicinity of Eilat and along hundreds of kilometers of highway in Arava Desert, Xinhua reported citing a ministry statement.
The Israeli and Egyptian militaries laid the minefields in 1968 and throughout the 1970s, the ministry said, estimating that they contained upwards of 10,000 anti-personnel mines.
"The Eilat area is mine-free. The area was a 'ticking bomb' for decades and will soon be utilised by the state for the benefit of civilians," Marcel Aviv, deputy director of MCA, said.
In 2011, MCA was allocated a modest annual budget of NIS 27 million ($7.6 million) for a massive multi-year project to clear the minefields strewn along Israel's borders with Syria, Egypt and Jordan -- in cooperation with the Israeli army's Combat Engineering Corps.
MCA director Ervin Lavie said mine-clearing operations will extend in the near future to large areas in the Golan Heights and other parts of northern Israel.
Once cleared, these areas will be utilised for agriculture, residential construction, commerce and tourism, while others will be designated protected nature reserves, the defence ministry said.