Mine Action

Last updated: 29 November 2015

State not party to the Mine Ban Treaty

Not a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions


The Syrian Arab Republic is contaminated by mines, cluster munition remnants, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW), much resulting from the ongoing four-year-old armed conflict. The scale and intensity of combat involving heavy, indiscriminate weapons in Syria has tended to eclipse mine use and casualties since 2012. Government forces have used cluster munitions extensively in the ongoing conflict and Islamic State has also used them in a number of instances.

Mine contamination 

Syria is contaminated by mines, a legacy of Arab-Israeli wars since 1948 and the ongoing armed conflicts. Media and other reports by groups monitoring or involved in the conflict point to continued use of mines by pro- and anti-government forces across the country. 

International observers believe remotely delivered T-84 mines were used in the Golan Heights in the southwest of Syria[1] and mine casualties reportedly occurred in areas of Hassakeh province in the far northeast, contested by Islamic State and Kurdish forces.[2] Islamic State was reported to have left mines in a number of locations in central and northern Syria, including around the ancient site of Palmyra.[3] Rebel groups attacking a regime airbase at Wadi Deif, between the western cities of Hamah and Idlib, are reported to have suffered heavy casualties from mines placed around the perimeter.[4] Rebel groups have reportedly made use of mines along with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and have in the past said they would re-use government-laid mines they recovered.[5] Kurdish groups in the north-eastern town of Ras al-Ain reported removal of some 60 tripwire-activated mines placed by jihadist groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the nearby town of Tel Halaf.[6] 

Syrian refugees and opposition fighters arriving in neighbouring Lebanon in 2012 and 2013 related experiences with mines[7] but Turkish border areas have been particularly hazardous. Turkish authorities reportedly stated that between 613,000 and 715,000 mines had been planted along the Turkish-Syrian border, making clear they were not emplaced by Turkish forces though media reports gave no further details.[8] In 2012, Human Rights Watch identified mine use on the Turkish border near Hasanieih (PMN-2 mines), Derwand, Jiftlek, Kherbet al-Joz toward Alzouf and al-Sofan, Armana, Bkafla, Hatya, Darkosh, Salqin, and Azmeirin.[9] In 2014, casualties occurred among civilians attempting to cross the Turkish border to escape heavy fighting in the town of Kobani. Civilian mine casualties were also reported from villages close to the town[10] (see Mine Ban Policy section for more details).

Cluster munition contamination 

Cluster munition contamination has been identified in 10 out of Syria’s 14 governorates, but the extent of contamination is not known (see Cluster Munition Ban section for more details). 

Program Management 

There is no mine action program in Syria, no national mine action authority, and no mine action center.

In March 2012, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) established an office in Damascus, initially as part of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), but this was closed in August 2012 and UNMAS no longer has a presence in Syria. An UNMAS risk education project was included in the Syrian humanitarian response plan proposed for 2014 but Syrian authorities did not approve visas for staff to implement it. To assist humanitarian relief agencies and eventual reconstruction, UNMAS started a “clash database” based largely on open source material recording the locations of armed clashes but handed this over in 2014 to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.[11]

In 2015, there was an informal coordination mechanism through the UN sponsored Protection Cluster, which the mine action NGOs, DanChurchAid (DCA), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), and Handicap International (HI) attended.[12]

Land Release

No formal demining programme is being conducted in Syria but limited clearance is reportedly conducted on an ad hoc basis by government and non-state armed groups as well as by some civilians.

Media reported the death of two Syrian army engineers in the course of demining in Homs Old City after the evacuation of rebels in May 2014, but it was unclear if they were engaged in clearing mines or in explosive ordnance disposal.[13]

Media reports have also referred to agreement by Palestinian factions besieged in the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk to allow the entry of a “mine detection committee” to search for mines and IEDs. Media reports said roads into Yarmouk had been cleared of mines although humanitarian agencies in Syria said they were not aware of mines affecting access.[14]

As an example of spontaneous clearance by local inhabitants, a video posted online by Human Rights Watch in March 2012 reported that a team of five local people had removed 300 antipersonnel mines from the village of Hasanieih near the border with Turkey.[15]

DCA started explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) operations in Kobani in May 2015. It also conducted risk education in Kobani, Aleppo, and Idlib regions. Ninety items of unexploded ordinance were located and moved to safe areas to be destroyed at a later stage. No cluster munition remnants were found.[16]

Syria is not party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

[1] Mark Hiznay, “Remotely delivered antivehicle mines spotted in Syria,” Human Rights Watch, 25 April 2014.

[2]Landmines kill 8 in Hama and al-Hassakah,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 2 May 2015.

[4] L. Fadel, “Idlib: Syrian army land mines kill a number of al Nusra Front fighters,” Al Masdar News, 19 December 2014.

[5] See, for example, “Rebels targeting regime checkpoints in Idlib,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 3 February 2014; “Human losses and violent conflict are ongoing in Aleppo,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 9 November 2013; C. J. Chivers, “Starved for arms, Syria rebels make their own,” New York Times, 12 June 2013; and “Assad troops plant land mines on Syria-Lebanon border,” Associated Press,1 November 2011.

[6] H. L. Smith, “Land mines in Ras al-Ain,” Asharq Al-Awsat, 7 December 2013.

[7] Human Rights Watch, “Syria: Army planting banned landmines,” 13 March 2012; and “2 Syrian Nationals Wounded by Landmine at Northern Border-Crossing,” Naharnet, 9 February 2012.

[8]Thousands of landmines planted along Turkish-Syrian border,” Middle East Monitor, 21 November 2013.

[10] Human Rights Watch, “Syria/Turkey: Landmines kill civilians fleeing Kobani,” 2 December 2014; and “ISIL mines cause three injured and one dead child, Kobani, Rojava, Syria,” Union of Kurdish Students in Syria and Germany, 19 March 2015.

[11] Emails from Flora Sutherland, Senior Programme Coordinator, UNMAS, New York, 28 May 2013, and 9 June 2015.

[12] Email from Richard MacCormac, Head of Mine Action, DCA, 3 August 2015.

[15] Human Rights Watch, “Syria: Army Planting Banned Landmines,” 14 March 2012.

[16] Ibid.