Mine Action

Last updated: 19 August 2014

Contamination and Impact

The Syrian Arab Republic is contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster munition remnants, a legacy of Arab-Israeli wars since 1948 and the ongoing armed conflicts.

The scale and intensity of conflict involving heavy, indiscriminate weapons in Syria has tended to eclipse landmine use and casualties since 2012. The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) maintains a database of clashes but did not record specific instances of mine laying in 2013.[1] However, media and other reports by groups monitoring or involved in the conflict point to continued use of mines by both sides. Video clips posted on the internet by opposition supporters have described scattered incidents of mine use by government troops in 2013 but these could not be independently confirmed.[2] Rebel groups have reportedly made use of mines along with improvised explosive devices and have in the past said they would re-use government-laid mines they recovered.[3]

Syrian refugees and opposition combatants arriving in neighboring Lebanon and Turkey in 2012 and 2013 related experiences with landmines, some of them documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the media.[4] Turkish authorities reportedly stated that between 613,000 and 715,000 landmines had been planted along the Turkish-Syrian border, making clear they were not emplaced by Turkish forces, but media reports gave no further details.[5] In 2012, HRW identified mine use on the Turkish border near Hasanieih (PMN-2), Derwand, Jiftlek, Kherbet al-Joz toward Alzouf and al-Sofan, Armana, Bkafla, Hatya, Darkosh, Salqin, and Azmeirin.[6] Landmine use has also been reported on the Lebanese border in al-Buni,[7] Tel Kalakh,[8] Kneissi,[9] and Heet.[10] Civilian casualties have been recorded from this mine use.

Mine Action Program

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

In March 2012, 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 does not currently have a presence in Syria. An UNMAS risk education project was included in the Syrian humanitarian response plan proposed for 2014 but Syrian authorities have not approved any visas for staff to implement it. To assist humanitarian relief agencies and eventual reconstruction, UNMAS has maintained a database based largely on open source material recording locations of armed clashes.[11] 

Land Release

No formal demining program is conducted in Syria but clearance is reportedly conducted by government and rebel troops and by some civilians on an ad hoc basis. Media reported the death of two Syrian Army engineers in the course of conducting “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.[12] As an example of spontaneous clearance by local inhabitants, a video posted online by HRW 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.[13]

Turkish Defense Minister Ismat Yilmaz was quoted by media in 2013 as saying that 1,734 mines had been removed from the Syrian-Turkish border but gave no details.[14]

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 the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham in the nearby town of Tel Halaf.[15]


[1] Email from Flora Sutherland, Senior Programme Coordinator, UNMAS, New York, 28 May 2013.

[2] See, for example, “Syria/Assad-forces lay mines btw these 2 checkpoints in outskirts of DeirEzzor,” Yallasouriya, 23 October 2013; and “Syria, landmines planted by regime before leaving Tafas, have been dismantled,” Yallasouriya, 28 October 2013, accessed 21 May 2014.

[3] 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 Associated Press,“Assad troops plant land mines on Syria-Lebanon border,” quoted in Haaretz, 1 November 2011.

[4]Syria: Army planting banned landmines,” HRW, 13 March 2012.

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

[8] 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] On 9 March 2012, The Washington Post published a photo of 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.

[11] Email from Flora Sutherland, Senior Programme Coordinator, UNMAS, New York, 28 May 2013.

[13] HRW, “Syria: Army Planting Banned Landmines,” 14 March 2012.

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

[15] Hannah Lucinda Smith, “Land mines in Ras al-Ain,” Asharq Al-Awsat, 7 December 2013.