Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 30 October 2014

Mine ban policy overview

Mine Ban Treaty status

State not party

Pro-mine ban UNGA voting record

Abstained on Resolution 68/30 in December 2013

Participation in Mine Ban Treaty meetings

Last participated in a Mine Ban Treaty meeting in 2006

Key developments

Government forces are using antipersonnel landmines in the internal conflict that began in 2011, while opposition forces are using victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs)


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]

The ICBL welcomed Syria’s 14 September 2013 accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and urged it to join the Mine Ban Treaty and destroy its stockpile of antipersonnel mines.[2]

Syria last participated as an observer in a Mine Ban Treaty meeting in 2006.[3] It has rarely made any public statements on its landmine policy or participated in meetings of the ban treaty.

Since 1996, Syria has abstained from voting on every annual pro-ban UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on landmines, including UNGA Resolution 68/30 in December 2013.

Syria is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

On 5 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.[4] 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 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.

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 large and consist 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 its borders.

Since late 2011, the first reports of government mine use emerged in the country’s border areas.[5] A Syrian official acknowledged the government had “undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines.”[6]

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.[7] Before government forces abandoned a position at Kharbit al-Jouz near the border in October 2012, they emplaced up to 200 antipersonnel mines that subsequently injured local civilians.[8]

Government mine use on the Lebanese border was reported in June 2012 at al-Buni,[9] Tel Kalakh,[10] Kneissi,[11] Heet (PMN-2 and TMN-46 mines),[12] and Masharih al-Qaa.[13] Government forces reportedly used antipersonnel mines in June 2013 near Qusair on the border with Lebanon.[14]

In April 2014, the use of Type 84 landmines was recorded in Sawaysa, Quneitra in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights.[15] 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.

A September 2014 video posted on YouTube shows antivehicle mines on a road near al-Hamaydia in Quneitra governorate that opposition forces said were emplaced by government forces.[16] A video uploaded in April 2013 shows antivehicle mines on a road in al-Raqqa governorate that opposition forces said were laid by government forces.[17] In August 2014, Reuters reported that Islamic State forces were killed by landmines during an attack on a Syrian government airbase at Tabqa, near the city of Raqqa.[18]

Production and use by rebel forces

Landmine use by opposition forces has also been recorded in the armed conflict, particularly IEDs.

In August 2014, the Lebanese Army reported that it had encountered explosive booby-traps laid by Syrian insurgents (from the Nusra Front and from the Islamic State) who had crossed from Syria into the Lebanese town of Arsal.[19]

In June 2014, government troops who entered Latakia after retaking it from rebel forces claimed to encounter antipersonnel mines and booby traps laid by opposition groups.[20] In March 2014, government troops who entered Yabroud were reported to be clearing booby-traps and bombs laid by opposition groups.[21] In January 2014, Israeli troops shot at two persons in Syria who were believed to be collecting and stealing mines from the Israeli minefield on the border.[22]

In December 2013, Kurdish militia stated that they encountered numerous mines and booby-traps laid by Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Ras Ai-Ain.[23]

Previously, there were several reports of Syrian non-state armed groups manufacturing and using IEDs, primarily remotely-detonated roadside bombs but also victim-activated devices.[24]

Victim-activated IEDs are prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty’s definition of an antipersonnel mine.

In August 2012 after a Syrian rebel told the media that they intended to re-use government antipersonnel mines that have been removed from the ground, the ICBL called on all parties to the conflict in Syria to forbid their combatants from using landmines.[25] It is not known if opposition forces have used landmines acquired or recovered from government forces.

Opposition forces reportedly used antipersonnel mines at Qusair in the year before the city fell to government forces in early June 2013.[26]

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.[27]

Previously, some opposition use of antivehicle mines was recorded in 2013.[28]

Hezbollah claimed that its forces discovered landmines in Yabroud in March 2014 after the city fell from Jabhat al-Nusra control to government forces.[29]

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.[30]

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. More condemnations of landmine use in Syria were made at the Thirteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva in December 2013 by the UN Secretary-General and the European Union.


[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.

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

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

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

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

[10] 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.

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

[12] 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.

[13] “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.

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

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

[18] Tom Perry, “Syria Reinforces Air Base Under Islamic State Attack: Monitor,” Reuters, 22 August 2014.

[19] 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.

[20] Lucas, Ryan, “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.

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

[22]IDF Shoots at Landmine Thieves,” the Jewish Press, 13 January 2014.

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

[24] 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.

[25] 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.

[26] 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.” Sarah El Deeb, “Syrian rebels reeling from loss of Qusair,” Associated Press, 11 June 2013. According to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, Hezbollah and Syrian Army units conducting mine clearance in Qusair found dozens of mines provided by Hezbollah to Hamas in 2007–2008. Sources hinted that Hamas may have provided the mines to Syrian rebels. The report has not been confirmed by Hezbollah’s leadership. Roi Kais, “Report: Mines found in Qusair provided by Hezbollah to Hamas,” Ynet, 10 June 2013. See also: “SYRIA Fsa Rebel deploying Anti personnel mines Pretending to be Clearing Them Syria War 2013,” YouTube, 19 September 2013.

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

[29]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.

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