Syria

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 24 September 2019

Policy

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

Since 1996, Syria has abstained from voting on every annual pro-ban United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on landmines, including UNGA Resolution 73/61 on 5 December 2018.[3]

Syria is not party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions or the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

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, PMN-4, and OZM-72 antipersonnel mines, as well as TMN-46 and TM-62 antivehicle mines. 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.[4] 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.

During the existence of the Islamic State (IS) in parts of Iraq and Syria, antipersonnel mines appear to have been systematically produced and emplaced in conflict areas by IS-affiliated armed groups, but little information or details regarding this activity has been made public. Images of antipersonnel mines produced by IS were taken in Syria near the village of Miqtaa, southwest of Manbij during the summer of 2019.[5]

Use

Landmine Monitor has not documented or confirmed during this reporting period (October 2018–October 2019) any use of antipersonnel mines by Syrian government forces or by Russian forces participating in joint military operations in Syria.

In late 2011, the first reports emerged of Syrian government use of antipersonnel mines in the country’s border areas.[6] A Syrian official acknowledged the government had “undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines.”[7]

In an undated photograph circulated on social media in May 2019, a Syrian Army soldier is shown emplacing stake-mounted POMZ-2 fragmentation mines and tripwires in farmland near Kernaz in north Hama.[8]

Non state armed groups (NSAGs) likely continued to use landmines as in previous years, but access by independent sources to the remaining territory under NSAG control made it impossible to confirm new use in the reporting period.[9]

For details on landmine use by combatants in Syria during the 2016–2017 period, see previous Landmine Monitor reporting.[10]

Between September 2015 and January 2017, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) successfully cleared 7,500 improvised mines and other improvised devices from Iraq and Syria.[11]

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.



[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 States Parties in Geneva in September 2006.

[3] “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction,” UNGA Resolution 73/61, 5 December 2018.

[5] See, Woofers, “Asayiş disarmed a leftover Daesh mine in the village of Miqtaa', southwest of Manbij,” 10 June 2019, Tweet; and Collective Awareness to UXO “Need and ID – Landmine 02,” undated.

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

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

[8] See, Gregory Waters “Engineer in the 33rd Brigade (formerly 9th Div, now part of Hama-based 8th Div) planting POMZ anti-personnel mines in #Kernaz #Hama before his death earlier this year. Farmland in north Hama will be incredibly dangerous for years to come due to all the mines. (ID from @obretix),” 3 May 2019, Tweet.

[9] In 2016, reports of mine use by IS increased. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reported several incidents from mines that IS fighters likely laid as the group controlled the territory for prolonged periods of time. For example, in Aleppo governorate alone, SNHR reported civilian casualties in August, September, and October 2016 from landmines that IS apparently laid in the villages of Najm, Abu Qalqal, Al Humar, and Al Dadat. Landmine use continued in 2017, with SNHR reporting 12 casualties in Raqqa governorate in just August and September, from incidents in Kasrat Srour, Raqqa City, and Hneida. Syria’s state-run news agency reported in October that a photographer with Syrian state TV had been killed in the central Homs province when a land mine emplaced by the IS exploded.

[10] Landmine Monitor, “Country Profile: Syria: Ban Policy,” 16 October 2018.

[11] Chris Loughran and Sean Sutton, “MAG: Clearing Improvised Landmines in Iraq,” The Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction, April 2017.