Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 04 November 2015


The Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Syria has articulated the same position on the ban treaty for years without change: it is concerned with the plight of mine victims, but views antipersonnel mines as necessary weapons, as shown by its use of the weapons since 2011. Syria also considers Israel’s continued annexation/occupation of part of the Golan Heights as a key reason for not joining the treaty.[1]

Syria last participated as an observer in a Mine Ban Treaty meeting in 2006.[2] It has rarely made any public statements on its landmine policy or participated in ban treaty meetings as an observer.

Since 1996, Syria has abstained from voting on every annual pro-ban UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on landmines, including UNGA Resolution 69/33 in December 2014.

Syria is not party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions or the Convention on Conventional Weapons. It acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 September 2013.

In June 2014, two Kurdish non-state armed groups in Syria—the People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units (YPG-YPJ) and the Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava—signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning antipersonnel mines.[3]

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Syria is not known to have produced or exported antipersonnel mines.

The size and origin of Syria’s mine stockpile is not known, but it is believed to be significant and comprised mainly of Soviet/Russian-manufactured mines including PMN-2 antipersonnel mines and TMN-46 antivehicle mines.


Prior to the current armed conflict that began in 2011, Syria was last believed to have used landmines in 1982, during the conflict with Israel in Lebanon. Little was known about the extent of its landmine problem, but the most significantly mined areas were in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, in the southwest of the country, in addition to along its borders.

In late 2011, the first reports emerged of government mine use in the country’s border areas.[4] A Syrian official acknowledged the government had “undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines.”[5]

Government use of Soviet-manufactured PMN-2 antipersonnel mines was reported in March 2012 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.[6] Syrian government forces laid up to 200 antipersonnel mines at Kharbit al-Jouz near the Turkish border in October 2012, before it abandoned the position.[7]

Government mine use on the Lebanese border was reported in June 2012 at al-Buni,[8] Tel Kalakh,[9] Kneissi,[10] Heet (PMN-2 and TMN-46 mines),[11] and Masharih al-Qaa.[12] Government forces reportedly used antipersonnel mines in June 2013 near Qusair on the border with Lebanon.[13]

In April 2014, the use of Type-84 landmines was recorded in Sawaysa, Quneitra in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights.[14] The antivehicle mines are delivered by unguided surface-to-surface 122mm rockets with a range of up to seven kilometers. Due to its sensitive magnetic fuze that also functions as an anti-disturbance measure, the Chinese-manufactured mine can detonate from changes in its immediate magnetic environment, including proximity to a vehicle or a person wearing or carrying a sufficient amount of metal, such as military equipment or even a camera. Antivehicle mines with antihandling devices or sensitive fuzes that explode from an unintentional or innocent act are considered antipersonnel mines under the Mine Ban Treaty and are therefore prohibited.

The so-called Islamic State (ISIS), rebel groups, and the regime in Syria continue to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines, which have led to many civilian and non-civilian deaths. Often times, these are reported as “roadside bombs,” but also include victim-activated devices. According to the Violations Documentation Center for Syria, there were 24 non-civilian deaths and 67 civilian deaths from landmines between October 2014 and October 2015.[15] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported 67 civilian deaths in this time period from landmines, but noted that there were 53 non-civilian deaths, and nine unspecified individual deaths.[16]

Human Rights Watch reported that at least 70 mine explosions occurred in the Tel Shair corridor along the Syrian-Turkish border near Kobani between 15 September and 15 November 2014, killing at least three civilians, including two children, and injuring nine others.[17] Photographs taken by humanitarian workers show what appear to be US-made M2 bounding antipersonnel mines that were allegedly removed from the minefields north of Kobani, which lie in Turkish territory and fall under Turkey’s obligations as a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty to destroy all antipersonnel landmines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible.

Photographs and a video posted online by the Syrian Center for Demining Rehabilitation on 28 September 2015, allegedly filmed west of Daraa in southern Syria, show up to 20 PMN-4 antipersonnel mines being removed from the ground.[18] This is the first evidence of use of the PMN-4 in the Syria conflict, but it is unclear who laid them or when. Markings on the mines indicate they were manufactured in Russia in 1995.

A video released by PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union Party) in February 2015 following the cessation of fighting in Kobane shows victim-activated IEDs in buildings, allegedly in Kobane.[19]

Production and use by rebel forces

Landmine use by opposition forces has also been recorded in the armed conflict, particularly IEDs. Victim-activated IEDs are prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty’s definition of an antipersonnel mine.

A July 2015 media report cites claims by Kurdish fighters that ISIS fighters left “thousands” of landmines in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah and at least 15 villages around it before retreating from the area. One Kurdish fighter said that ISIS “plant large mines that are easily detonated so young boys are blown to pieces.”[20]

According to a July 2015 media report, residents returning to Khabur in northeastern Syria after Islamic State forces retreated from the Assyrian Christian-majority town were finding newly laid IEDs in their homes and farmland.[21]

In June 2015, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told media that Islamic State forces had laid landmines and other explosive devices around the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, which it seized in May 2015.[22]

In August 2014, the Lebanese Army reported that it had encountered explosive booby-traps laid by Syrian insurgents from the Nusra Front and from Islamic State who had crossed from Syria into the Lebanese town of Arsal.[23]

In June 2014, Syrian government troops entering Latakia after retaking it from rebel forces claimed they encountered antipersonnel mines and booby traps laid by opposition groups.[24] In March 2014, government troops who entered Yabroud were reported to be clearing booby-traps and bombs laid by opposition groups.[25] In January 2014, Israeli troops shot at two persons in Syria who it believed were collecting and stealing mines from an Israeli minefield on the border.[26]

Previously, in 2012 and 2013, there were several reports of Syrian non-state armed groups manufacturing and using IEDs, primarily remotely detonated roadside bombs, but also victim-activated devices.[27]

The ICBL called on all parties to the conflict in Syria to forbid their combatants from using landmines.[28] It is not known if opposition forces have used landmines acquired or recovered from government forces.

In January 2014, the Syrian Red Crescent reported that unknown rebels had placed landmines on a highway near Damascus. The type was not specified but appeared to be antivehicle mines.[29]

Hezbollah claimed that its forces discovered landmines in Yabroud in March 2014, after the city fell from Jabhat al-Nusra control to government forces.[30]

In June 2014, a former child soldier interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that he laid explosive devices on behalf of opposition rebels at a government facility in Aleppo governorate.[31]

International response

Several states have condemned Syria’s use of antipersonnel mines since early 2012, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey, and the United States, as well as the European Union and UN Secretary-General.

[1] Telephone interview with Milad Atieh, Director, Department of International Organizations and Conventions, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 January 2008; and interview with Mohd Haj Khaleel, Department of International Organizations and Conventions, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Damascus, 25 February 2007. See also, statement of Syria, Seminar on Military and Humanitarian Issues Surrounding the Mine Ban Treaty, Amman, 19–21 April 2004.

[2] A Geneva-based Syrian diplomat attended as an observer the Seventh Meeting of State Parties in Geneva in September 2006.

[3] Geneva Call described the YPG-YPJ as “the dominant military force” in Kurdish-populated Syria and said it has been mainly fighting Islamist armed groups active in Syria, notably the so-called Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front, since government forces largely withdrew from the areas in 2012. The Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava was formed in January 2014 and is the de facto governing authority in the Kurdish areas. Geneva Call Press Release, “Syrian Kurdish armed non-State actor commits to ban anti-personnel mines, sexual violence and child recruitment,” 16 June 2014.

[4] ICBL Press Release, “ICBL publicly condemns reports of Syrian forces laying mines,” 2 November 2011.

[5]Assad troops plant land mines on Syria-Lebanon border,” Haaretz (The Associated Press),1 November 2011.

[7] Stephanie Nebehay, “Syria using mines and cluster bombs on civilians: campaigners,” Reuters, 29 November 2012.

[9] See testimony of 15-year-old boy from Tal Kalakh who lost his right leg to a landmine. “Syria: Army Planting Banned Landmines: Witnesses Describe Troops Placing Mines Near Turkey, Lebanon Borders,” HRW,13 March 2012.

[10] “Syrian farmer killed in mine explosion at Lebanon border,” The Daily Star, 17 December 2011.

[11] On March 9, The Washington Post published a photo of dirt-covered PMN-2 antipersonnel mines and TMN-46 antivehicle mines that it reported were planted by the Syrian army on the outskirts of the Syrian village of Heet.

[12] “Syria plants mines along Lebanon border,” The Daily Star, 13 June 2012. For information about an injury at an unidentified location on the Syria-Lebanese border, see “Lebanon-Syria border blast wounds 3,” Agence France-Presse, 29 July 2012.

[13] Email from HRW employee, 5 June 2013.

[14] Mark Hiznay, “Remotely Delivered Antivehicle Mines Spotted in Syria,” Landmine and Cluster Munition Blog, 25 April 2014.

[15]Martyrs,” Violations Documentation Center in Syria, October 2015.

[16]Reports,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, October 2015.

[17] Human Rights Watch Press Release, “Syria/Turkey: Landmines Kill Civilians Fleeing Kobani,” 2 December 2014.

[18] “28 9 2015 أزالة الألغام التي زرعتها قوات النظام في الحي الشرقي بمدينة بريف درعا,”, 28 September 2015. See also, Conflict Armament Research, “Russian PMN-4 anti-personnel landmines in Syria,” 1 October 2015.

[20] Keir Simmons and Charlene Gubash, “Retreating ISIS Left ‘Thousands’ of Mines in Syrian City of Hasakah: Kurds,” NBC News, 28 July 2015.

[23] Mariam Karouny, Tom Perry, and Samia Nakhoul, “Saudi Arabia grants $1 billion to Lebanon's army in battle against Syrian rebels,” Haaretz, 7 August 2014.

[24] Ryan Lucas, “Kobane Kurds stranded on landmine-ridden border,” Daily Star (Associated Press, Lebanon), 15 June 2014; and “Syrian army crushes rebel push near Turkish border,” Daily Star (Associated Press), 15 June 2014.

[25] Albert Aji and Diaa Hadid, “Syrian government forces capture key rebel town near Lebanon border,” Christian Science Monitor (Associated Press), 16 March 2014.

[26]IDF Shoots at Landmine Thieves,” The Jewish Press, 13 January 2014.

[27] In December 2013, Kurdish militia stated that they encountered numerous mines and booby-traps laid by Jabhat Al-Nusra and Islamic State in Ras Ai-Ain. Hannah Lucinda Smith, “Land Mines in Ras Al-Ain,” Asharq Al Awsat, 7 December 2013. According to the Associated Press, in the year prior to the defeat at Qusair “rebels holding the town had heavily fortified it with tunnels, mine fields, and booby traps” before the city fell to government forces in early June 2013. Sarah El Deeb, “Syrian rebels reeling from loss of Qusair,” Associated Press, 11 June 2013. In July 2013, Wired published a profile on rebel arms manufacturers in Aleppo, including one manufacturer who showed a reporter victim-activated IEDs (using a pressure plate) that he was working on. The metallic devices looked like “old-fashioned fire-alarm bells.” See also: “IED bombs new Syrian rebel strategy,” BBC, 23 June 2012; CJ Chivers, “Syrian Rebels Hone Bomb Skills to Even the Odds,” The New York Times, 18 July 2012; Luke Harding and Ian Black, “Syria’s rebels add explosives expertise to guerrilla tactics,” The Guardian, 1 August 2012; and Christopher John Chivers, “Syria’s Dark Horses, With Lathes: Makeshift Arms Production in Aleppo Governorate, Part I,” The New York TimesAt War blog, 19 September 2012.

[28] ICBL Press Release, “Syrian opposition forces urged not to use landmines,” 2 August 2012. In an interview, an unidentified Syrian rebel stated, “We defuse the mines planted by the Assad army and we will plant these mines for his soldiers.” Jane Ferguson, “Syria rebels to reuse regime landmines,” Al Jazeera, 1 August 2012.

[29] Sam Dagher and Nour Malas, “In Fight for Syria, Food and Medicine Are Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, 21 January 2014.

[30]Hezbollah Reorganizes Ranks in Light of Leaks,” The Daily Star, 1 April 2014; and “Syrian Army Captures Strategic Border Town,” Al Jazeera, 17 March 2014.

[31] HRW Video, “Syria: Armed Groups Send Children into Battle,”, 22 June 2014.