Syria

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 16 November 2021

Policy

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

Syria attended the Mine Ban Treaty Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties in November 2020 as an observer, and made a public statement.[1] It stated that “The Syrian Arab Republic participates as an observer in this meeting due to its interest in the issue of landmines, explosive ordinances [sic], and improvised explosive devices and considering their use by terrorist organizations, both created and obtained, in their terrorist operations on Syrian territories.”[2] Additionally, it stated “The Syrian Arab Republic stresses that achieving global agreement and freeing the world of landmines requires addressing existing concerns and challenges. First and foremost, translating political commitments into financial resources to support the achievement of these goals.”[3]

Previously, Syria’s attendance at the Mine Ban Treaty Fourth Review Conference, held in Oslo in November 2019, marked the first time since 2006 that it had participated in a meeting of the treaty.[4]

Since 1996, Syria has abstained from voting on every annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting the universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, including UNGA Resolution 75/52, on 7 December 2020.[5]

Syria is not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, nor the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Use

The Monitor has not independently documented or confirmed any new use of antipersonnel mines by Syrian government forces or by Russian forces participating in joint military operations in Syria during the reporting period (October 2020–October 2021).[6]

In late 2011, the first reports emerged of Syrian government use of antipersonnel landmines in the country’s border areas.[7] A Syrian official acknowledged the government had “undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines.”[8]

Syria’s statement at the Mine Ban Treaty Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties in 2020 alleged that:

"The illegal foreign military presence on Syrian territories, the use of mines and improvised explosive devices by armed terrorist groups in these areas, and the continuation of the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan where Syrian residents risk injury and death due to the landmines planted between their homes, fields, and villages by the occupation forces, all pose as obstacles to fully identifying and clearing the areas contaminated with landmines.

These organizations have randomly planted landmines and explosive ordinances [sic] in large tracts of lands without any map indicating their locations. The Syrian Arab Army has taken upon itself the task of securing, diffusing, and clearing the areas of landmines to ensure the safe return of Syrians to these areas and to restore normalcy in their daily lives."[9]

Non-state armed groups (NSAGs) have used landmines in Syria in previous years, but a lack of access by independent sources to territory that remains under NSAG control made it impossible to confirm new use during the reporting period.[10]

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that tracks casualties in Syria, “[T]here is great difficulty in determining which party was responsible for planting landmines, due to the multiplicity of forces controlling the areas in which these explosions occur, and therefore we do not attribute the vast majority of deaths caused by landmines to a specific party. None of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria have revealed maps of the places where they planted landmines.”[11] (See Syria Impact profile, section on casualties, for further information)

Between September 2015 and January 2017, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) successfully cleared 7,500 improvised antipersonnel landmines and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from Iraq and Syria.[12]

Prior to the current armed conflict, which 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.

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

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

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 (SCDR) on 28 September 2015, allegedly filmed west of Daraa in southern Syria, showed up to 20 PMN-4 antipersonnel mines being removed from the ground.[13] This was the first evidence of use of PMN-4 mines during the Syrian Civil War, but it is unclear who laid them and when. Markings on the mines indicate that they were manufactured in Russia in 1995.

Antipersonnel landmines appear to have been systematically produced and emplaced in conflict-affected areas of Syria and Iraq by Islamic State-affiliated groups since 2014, but little information or detail regarding this activity has been made public. Images of antipersonnel mines produced by the Islamic State were taken in Syria near the village of Miqtaa, southwest of Manbij, in 2019.[14]



[1] Syria had articulated the same position on the treaty for years without change: that it is concerned by the plight of mine victims, but views antipersonnel mines as necessary weapons, as shown by its use of them 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. Information on Syria’s position obtained in a 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] Statement of Syria, Mine Ban Treaty Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties, held virtually, 16 November 2020, p. 2.

[3] Ibid., p. 3.

[4] Statement of Syria, Mine Ban Treaty Fourth Review Conference, Oslo, 29 November 2019. Syria’s statement said that it believes in the humanitarian goals of the treaty, but in current circumstances is unable to join. Syria stated that mine clearance is a priority but that it requires more support from the international community to make significant progress.

[6] The last concrete indication of possible new use was in an undated photograph circulated on social media in May 2019, where a Syrian Army soldier is shown emplacing stake-mounted POMZ-2 fragmentation mines and tripwires on farmland near Kernaz, in northern Hama. See, Waters, Gregory (GregoryPWaters), “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, 00:00 UTC, Tweet.

[7] ICBL press release, “ICBL publicly condemns reports of Syrian forces laying mines,” 2 November 2011.

[8]Assad Troops Plant Land Mines on Syria-Lebanon Border,” Associated Press,1 November 2011.

[9] Statement of Syria, Mine Ban Treaty Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties, held virtually, 16 November 2020, pp. 2–3.

[10] For details on landmine use by combatants in Syria during the 2016–2017 period, see ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Syria: Ban Policy,” updated 16 October 2018. In 2016, reports of mine use by the Islamic State increased. SNHR reported several incidents related to mines that Islamic State fighters likely laid as the group controlled the territory for prolonged periods of time. For example, in Aleppo governorate, SNHR reported civilian casualties in August, September, and October of 2016 from landmines that Islamic State apparently laid in the villages of Najm, Abu Qalqal, Al Humar, and Al Dadat. Landmine use continued during 2017, with SNHR reporting 12 casualties in Raqqa governorate during August and September, from incidents in Kasrat Srour, Raqqa, and Hneida. Syria’s state-run news agency reported in October 2017 that a photographer with Syrian state TV had been killed in the central province of Homs when a landmine emplaced by the Islamic State exploded.

[12] Chris Loughran and Sean Sutton, “MAG: Clearing Improvised Landmines in Iraq,” The Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction, Vol. 21, Issue 1, April 2017.

[13] “28-9-2015 Clear the mines that the regime forces planted in the eastern neighborhood of the city of Daraa countryside,” YouTube.com, 28 September 2015. See also, Conflict Armament Research, “Russian PMN-4 anti-personnel landmines in Syria,” 1 October 2015.

[14] See, Woofers (N0tWoofers), “Asayiş disarmed a leftover Daesh mine in the village of Miqtaa', southwest of Manbij.” 10 June 2019, 21:18 UTC. Tweet; and Collective Awareness to UXO, “Need and ID – Landmine 02,” undated.