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HI deminers deployed to assess explosive ordnance risks in Gaza

April 3, 2024

  • Gary Toombs and Simon Elmont, Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts for Humanity & Inclusion (HI) were recently in Gaza for three weeks to assess the contamination from explosive remnants.
  • HI is the first INGO to deploy this type of highly specialized response in Gaza since October 7th.
  • It is possible that as many as 6,300 bombs have failed to function as designed and remain unexploded in Gaza
  • The number of injuries will increase as people try to return to their homes.

Since October 7 and the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas, 32,000 Palestinians have been killed and 74,000 injured in the continuous bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces. This deadly offensive comes in the wake of an attack launched on Israel by Hamas, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and 240 Israelis and foreign nationals were taken hostage.

Emergency Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts deployed

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) deployed two Emergency Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts in Gaza to provide safe access and a safer environment to the people of Gaza and in support of the humanitarian sector.

The two experts’ mission was to locate, identify and mark explosive ordnance. HI is the first INGO to deploy this type of highly specialized response and in the case of Gaza.

During their mission, they focused on:

  • The delivery of Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE),
  • Undertaking Threat Assessments,
  • The marking of items of Explosive Ordnance.

“Explosive Ordnance Threat Assessments are required before aid agencies move within the Gaza Strip and are designed to assess whether contamination exists in the areas where they are wishing to work. As an example, routes to food distribution points and the distribution points themselves need to be checked and clear of EO to provide safety to the public and the aid delivery team,” says Simon Elmont, Explosive Ordnance Disposal expert for Humanity & Inclusion.

Gaza heavily contaminated

As an estimated 45,000 bombs were dropped during the first 89 days of conflict, according to Gaza Media Office, and based on an average failure rate of 14%, it is possible that as many as 6,300 bombs have failed to function as designed and remain unexploded.

“It's impossible to know the full extent of the explosive remnant contamination in the Gaza Strip, as hostilities have been present in the region for decades, and explosive remnants of war (ERW) were already a significant problem before the escalation that followed October 7. But considering the intensity of the bombardments during these last few months, we can expect a significant increase in explosive contamination,” says Gary Toombs, Explosive Ordnance Disposal expert for Humanity & Inclusion. He adds: “Many of the explosives are going to be hidden or underneath the rubble. Some of these bombs can go extremely deep into the ground and we’ll need very specific equipment to shore and shaft down to it. It can take up to a month just to get to the bomb. And then you have to render it safe.”

Injuries will increase as people return home

The marking of any EO discovered, coupled with the delivery of Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) aims to warn the population against interfering with Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), thus saving lives and removing the threat of injury from devices that are still dangerous as they did not function as designed.

“As the context changes in Gaza, people are moving around frequently. Our biggest fear is that when they return to their homes—which are damaged or destroyed—they will try and enter their homes to reclaim their possessions. We know from other conflict zones like Raqqa and Mosul that this is when the risk is greatest. We also know that the amount of injuries will increase as people try to return to their homes,” explains Elmont.

During the mission, Simon Elmont came across a Mark 83 air-dropped weapon, weighing 1,000 pounds. “Imagine just that weight hitting something, but once it detonates the explosive creates a very large crater in the ground and can destroy a building and damage the surrounding ones. Unless there is a ceasefire and we are allowed to bring in the correct types of equipment to render these weapons safe and to be able to move them to an area where they can be destroyed, we are unable to process these weapons. All we can do is mark, record and report, which is what we are doing (to UNMAS)," explains Elmont.

A team of specialists is preparing premises and equipment in Gaza, while coordinating with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the Office for Coordination and Humanitarian Access (OCHA) to assist in the delivery of these vital services. The Emergency team will be replaced by a full-time and expanded HI response in April 2024.

“Gaza faces not only the immediate aftermath of hostilities but also the enduring legacy of unexploded ordnance which will cast a long shadow over its recovery and any reconstruction efforts in the future,” says Toombs.

Immediate ceasefire needed

HI continues to be alarmed by the very high number of civilian victims, the lack of safe humanitarian access and the limited number of trucks being able to enter the Gaza strip daily. In northern Gaza, the situation has reached extreme levels, with heartbreaking accounts of civilians, including infants, succumbing to complications due to malnutrition. Along with more than 800 organizations, HI is calling for an immediate ceasefire to put an end to this unbearable situation and ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected population.


Gary Toombs and Simon Elmont are available for interviews. Please send media requests to Elizabeth Johnson Sellers at [email protected].

Humanity & Inclusion’s response in Gaza

All HI's efforts are currently focused on Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, where 1.4 million people from the north have been ordered to move and are now living in appalling conditions, without food, drinking water, sanitation, medicine or adequate shelter.

With more than 300 staff, volunteers and partners in Gaza, HI has been delivering activities to support civilians, including:

  • Rehabilitation: Since October, a total of 3,698 nursing care sessions (wound dressing), 3,174 physical therapy sessions and 1,001 occupational therapy sessions have been organized, and a total of 1,723 mobility aids and 717 dressing kits supplied,
  • Basic Needs: 78 first aid kits, 137 cooking kits, 3,456 nappies, 452 dignity kits have been distributed, as well as baby blankets,
  • Armed violence reduction: 719 community awareness sessions on the risks of explosive remnants of war have been organized in 141 shelters, reaching more than 12,650 children and adults,
  • Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS): a total of 10,128 recreational activities have been organized in 79 shelters for 41,839 people, the vast majority of whom are children.

Humanity & Inclusion has been working in Palestine since 1996. HI launched an emergency response in October along with an urgent appeal for funds.


Elizabeth Johnson Sellers,
Communications Director

Email: e[email protected]
Phone: +1 (240) 450-3538
Mobile: +1 (270) 847-3443


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