Syria

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 15 September 2021

Summary

Non-signatory Syria has shown little interest in the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It abstained from voting on a key United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2020.

Syria is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions. It has denied possessing or using cluster munitions, but itsarmed forces stockpile and have used cluster munitions repeatedly since 2012, with Russia’s support. The use of cluster munitions in Syria has caused widespread harm and been met with strong international condemnation.

Policy

The Syrian Arab Republic has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Syria has shown little interest in the convention and has taken no steps to join it. The Syrian government commented publicly on the convention once, in 2011, when it expressed appreciation for it and described cluster munitions as “criminalized by humanity.” However Syria said it “cannot sign” the convention “due to Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.”[1]

Syria did not engage in the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Syria participated as an observer in the convention’s Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011. This was its first and, to date, only participation in a meeting of the convention.

In December 2020, Syria abstained from the vote on a key UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution urging states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[2] Syria has not explained why it has abstained from the vote on this annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced was 2015.

Syria is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Syria is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions but has imported and stockpiled them.

There is no publicly available information on the types and quantities of cluster munitions stockpiled by the Syrian government. Syria possesses at least 13 types of cluster munitions, as listed in the following table, but when and how the Syrian government obtained them is not known.[3]

Types of cluster munitions used in Syria since 2012[4]

Type

Cluster munition name

Number of submunitions

Country produced

Bomb

RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M

42

USSR

RBK 250-275 AO-1SCh

150

USSR

RBK-500 AO-2.5RT/RTM

108

Russia/USSR

RBK-500 PTAB-1M

268

USSR

RBK-500 ShOAB-0.5

565

USSR

RBK-500 SPBE

15

Russia

Rocket

Uragan (9M27K-series)

30

Russia

Smerch (9M55K)

72

Russia

SAKR

56 or 72

Egypt

Missile

9M79 Tochka ballistic missile with 9N123K warhead containing

9N24submunitions

50

Russia/USSR

Projectile

3-O-8

14

Russia/USSR

Dispenser

BKF AO-2.5RT

96

USSR

BKF PTAB-2.5KO

12

USSR

Use

Syrian government forces have used cluster munitions since 2012. There have been at least 687 cluster munition attacks in Syria since July 2012, including at least one attack between 1 August 2020 and 31 July 2021.[5] Previously, Cluster Munition Monitor reported at least a dozen cluster munition attacks in Syria between August 2019 and July 2020.

The extent of cluster munition use may be higher, as attacks have often gone unrecorded. All 14 of the country’s governorates except Tartus have experienced the use of cluster munitions since 2012.

Research continues to show that Syrian government forces are primarily responsible for using cluster munitions in the country, but Russian and Syrian government forces use many of the same aircraft and weapons and frequently carry out operations together. There is strong evidence that Russia stockpiles cluster munitions in Syria at its airbase at Hmeymim, southeast of Latakia city, and has used them in Syria since October 2015.[6] Russia has not explicitly denied its involvement in using cluster munitions in Syria, but claims that cluster munitions have been used in accordance with international humanitarian law and not indiscriminately.[7]

There is no evidence to indicate that the United States or its partners have used cluster munitions during Operation Inherent Resolve, an international coalition formed in 2014 to target the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.[8] The Islamic State used cluster munition rockets in Syria in 2014 and may have used them since then.[9] As the Syrian conflict continues, it is not possible to determine with confidence whether other non-state armed groups have used cluster munitions.[10]

All except two types of the cluster munitions used in Syria since 2012 were manufactured by the Soviet Union or its successor state, Russia.[11] Syrian government forces have used an array of RBK-series cluster bombs in their air campaign.[12] More advanced RBK-500 SPBE bombs containing SPBE sensor-fuzed submunitions and a ground-fired 240mm 3-O-8 rocket-assisted mortar projectile have been used in Syria since Russia began its joint operation in the country in September 2015.[13]

Syrian government forces have used use ground-launched cluster munitions since the end of 2012, deploying multi-barrel rocket launchers to fire 122mm SAKR cluster munition rockets containing DPICM submunitions.[14] Since 2014, Syrian government forces have used Smerch 9M55K and Uragan 9M27K-series surface-to-surface rockets containing 9N235 submunitions fitted with self-destruct mechanisms.[15] Syrian government forces have also used Tochka 9M79-series ballistic missiles.

Responses to the use of cluster munitions

The Syrian military has denied possessing or using cluster munitions, but rarely responds to or comments on allegations of new use of cluster munitions.[16]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has not explicitly denied Russia’s involvement in using cluster munitions in Syria, but in 2016 claimed that cluster munitions have been used in accordance with international humanitarian law and not indiscriminately.[17]

The civilian harm caused by the use of cluster munitions in Syria has attracted widespread media coverage, global public outcry, and condemnations from more than 145 states.[18] In September 2019, States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions adopted a report that “expressed their strong concern regarding recent incidents and evidence of use of cluster munitions in different parts of the world and condemned any use by any actor, in conformity with article 21.”[19] During the course of the meeting, at least 10 countries and the European Union publicly condemned or expressed grave concern over new use of cluster munitions, with most citing Syria as the key country of concern.[20]

Since May 2013, the UNGA has adopted nine resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently 101 states voted in favor, 13 voted against and 52 abstained on Resolution 75/193 on 16 December 2020.[21] Since 2014, states have adopted more than 17 Human Rights Council resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, while the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has issued numerous reports detailing cluster munition attacks.[22]



[1] Statement of Syria, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 15 September 2011.

[2]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 75/62, 7 December 2020.

[3] In 2004, Jane’s Information Group listed Syria as possessing some of the RBK-series air-dropped bombs as well as the KMGU dispensers, indicating that the stocks used after 2012 were not newly-acquired. Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2004), p. 846.

[4] At the outset in 2012, markings on cluster munitions used indicated they were produced in the 1970s and 1980s; while since September 2015, most of the cluster munitions used in Syria bear production dates from 1989 into the early 1990s. Most RBK-500 SPBE cluster bombs were manufactured in 1990 and 1991.

[5] According to Syria Civil Defense, cluster munitions were used in attacks on Tarhin and Al-Hamran villages, east of Aleppo, on 14 March 2021. See, Syria Civil Defence (SyriaCivilDef). ‘‘The regime and Russia's shelling on Tarhin and Al-Hamran villages east of #Aleppo yesterday has left unexploded cluster bombs that threaten the lives of civilians in the area. The #WhiteHelmets UXO teams scan the area to locate and destroy any unexploded cluster bombs.’’ 15 March 2021, 16:31 UTC. Tweet.

[6] Russian and Syrian government forces use many of the same aircraft and weapons and frequently carry out attacks jointly. However, Russia is the only force in Syria to operate Sukhoi SU-25 and SU-34 fighter-ground attack jets that deliver RBK-series cluster bombs. HRW, Amnesty International, and others have compiled credible evidence, including videos and photographs, documenting SU-25 and SU-34 jets near or involved in attacks near sites when cluster munitions were used. Amnesty International, “Syria: Russia’s shameful failure to acknowledge civilian killings,” 23 December 2015; and HRW, “Russia/Syria: Daily Cluster Munition Attacks,” 8 February 2016.

[7] In 2016, Russia provided HRW with a three-page position paper on the use of cluster munitions in Syria that claimed “no cases of indiscriminate use of air weapons have been registered so far in the course of the counter-terrorist operation in Syria,” and concluded that “the question of the involvement of the Russian military personnel in the cases of indiscriminate CMs [cluster munition] use in Syria [is] totally inappropriate.” “Russia’s Position on the Use of Cluster Munitions in Syria,” Position Paper annexed to letter to HRW from Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 9 December 2016. In the cover letter, Lavrov states, “I expect our paper to be taken into account during the preparation of future Human Rights Watch reports on the activities of the Russian military personnel in the fight against terrorism in Syria.”

[8] In September 2015, the US Department of Defense listed eight Operation Inherent Resolve coalition members conducting US-led airstrikes in Iraq: Convention on Cluster Munitions non-signatory Jordan and States Parties Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It listed nine coalition nations participating in US-led airstrikes in Syria: Convention on Cluster Munitions non-signatories Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as States Parties Australia, Canada, and France. US Department of Defense, “Airstrikes Hit ISIL Terrorists in Syria, Iraq,” 30 September 2015. In 2016, a spokesperson for the US Air Force’s Central Command told the Washington Post, “We have not employed cluster munitions in Operation Inherent Resolve. This includes both U.S. and coalition aircraft.” Email from Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Writer, Washington Post, 27 July 2016. See also, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Despite denial, ‘growing evidence’ Russia is using cluster bombs in Syria, report says,” Washington Post, 28 July 2016.

[9] In 2014, Islamic State forces used an unknown type of rocket-fired cluster munition that dispersed DPICM-like submunitions with a distinctive red nylon ribbon called “ZP-39.” HRW, “Syria: Evidence of Islamic State Cluster Munition Use,” 1 September 2014. Markings on some of the submunitions indicate they were manufactured in 1993. Brown Moses Blog, “The markings on what’s assumed to be a Sakr submunition suggests the designation is ZP39, made in 1993,” 4 April 2014.

[10] There is evidence that opposition forces have repurposed unexploded submunitions for use in air-delivered and ground-emplaced improvised explosive devices (IEDs). When activated by a victim, such devices are considered antipersonnel landmines prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty. A video uploaded to YouTube on 26 March 2014 reportedly of arms captured by government forces from rebel groups shows submunitions prepared for use as IEDs. The video is no longer available.

[11] Cluster munition rockets manufactured in Egypt have also been used in Syria, while the Islamic State has used cluster munitions rockets of unknown origin containing a DPICM-type submunition called “ZP-39” in Syria.

[12] The 250kg class RBK-series cluster bombs can be delivered by jet aircraft as well as rotary wing aircraft, such as Mi-24 and Mi-8 series helicopters. AO-2.5RT and PTAB-2.5KO submunitions are capable of being loaded into BKF cartridges and dispersed by KMG-U dispensers. The AO-2.5RT submunition can also be delivered by the RBK-500 cluster bomb.

[14] It is unclear if the 122mm rockets are SAKR-18 or SAKR-36 variants, which contain 72 and 98 submunitions respectively. The design of the fuze system in this type of submunition makes it very sensitive and submunitions that fail to explode on initial impact are liable to detonate if disturbed. HRW press release, “Syria: Army Using New Type of Cluster Munition,” 14 January 2013.

[15] Armament Research Services, “9M27K Series Cargo Rockets in Syria,” 22 February 2014; and HRW press release, “Syria: New Deadly Cluster Munition Attacks,” 19 February 2014.

[16] According to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), “the General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces stressed on [15 October 2012] that the misleading media outlets have recently published untrue news claiming the Syrian Arab Army has been using cluster bombs against terrorists.” According to SANA, “the General [in] Command said the Syrian Army does not possess such bombs.” See, “Syria denies using cluster bombs,” CNN, 16 October 2012. In March 2013, Syrian diplomatic representatives denied the evidence of Syrian cluster bomb use. Letter from Firas al Rashidi, Charge d’affairs ad interim, Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic to Japan, to the Japanese Campaign to Ban Landmines, 7 March 2013.

[17]Russia’s Position on the Use of Cluster Munitions in Syria,” Position Paper annexed to letter to HRW from Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 9 December 2016.

[18] More than 145 countries have condemned the use of cluster munitions in Syria via national statements and/or by endorsing resolutions or joint statements. They include 95 States Parties and signatories (Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, the UK, and Uruguay) and 51 non-signatories (Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Dominica, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Gabon, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Kiribati, South Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the United States, Vanuatu, and Yemen).

[19] See, Final report, Convention on Cluster Munitions Ninth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 18 September 2019, para. 27.

[20] Australia, Belgium, Chile, Cuba, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Slovenia, and Sweden.

[21]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 75/193, 16 December 2020.

[22]Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council (HRC) Report 46/54, 21 January 2021; “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council (HRC) Report 43/57, 28 January 2020. See also, “They have erased the dreams of my children: children’s rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” HRC Report 43/CRP.6, 13 January 2020; and “The siege and recapture of eastern Ghouta,” HRC Report 38/CRP.3, 20 June 2018.


Impact

Last updated: 15 September 2021

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Treaty Status | Management & Coordination | Impact (contamination & casualties) | Addressing the Impact (land release, risk education, victim assistance)

 

Country summary

The Syrian Arab Republic is contaminated by landmines left after successive Arab-Israeli wars since 1948, but particularly as a result of the conflict in Syria since 2011. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including improvised mines, have also become increasingly prevalent in Syria in recent years, and have been used by multiple armed actors engaged in the conflict.[1] Non-state armed group (NSAG) the Islamic State planted IEDs in homes, public buildings, and service provision facilities when its fighters retreated from areas previously held by the group.[2]

Cluster munitions have been used extensively in 13 of Syria’s 14 governorates since 2012, with Tartus being the exception.

The Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2021 reported that one in three populated communities in Syria were thought to be contaminated by explosive ordnance, and that one in two people were at risk from explosive ordnance contamination. Areas that experienced intense hostilities, including Aleppo, Idleb, Ar Raqqa, Deir-ez-Zor, Rural Damascus, and Dar’a governorates, were particularly affected.[3] In 2020, an average of 76 explosive incidents per day were recorded in Syria, while in some parts of eastern and western Ghouta—in Rural Damascus governorate—nearly 60% of surveyed land has been confirmed as hazardous.[4]

There is no national mine action program in Syria. Ongoing hostilities, shifting frontlines, and reports of continuing use of landmines by both pro- and anti-government forces has prevented systematic large-scale survey to determine the full extent of contamination. In government-controlled areas, some clearance has been undertaken by Russian and Syrian military engineers, civil defense forces, and by Armenian deminers. In northeastern governorates under the control of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (KSDF), clearance has been undertaken by humanitarian demining organizations and commercial companies. Contamination impact surveys have been conducted by international operators, which provided information on hazards, victim needs, and risk behavior.

Risk education was the most widespread activity of the Mine Action Area of Responsibility within the Global Protection Cluster in 2019 and 2020. Conducted in government-controlled areas and in northwest and northeast of Syria by the United Nations (UN), international demining organizations and national organizations, risk education is integrated with other humanitarian protection activities related to education, shelter, health, food security, and livelihoods.[5] In total, 1,951,296 beneficiaries in Syria were reached through risk education in 2020, while more than 1,100 humanitarian workers were trained in risk awareness to support safe humanitarian access.[6] However, this represents a significant drop from the 3.3 million beneficiaries reached in 2019, largely due to the impact of COVID-19.[7] In a Joint Mine Action and Child Protection Inter-Sectorial Analysis conducted in December 2020, 70% of respondents reported that they had not received any risk education between May–August 2020.[8]

There is no national assistance program for victims of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Syria, however the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) established a Victim Assistance Working Group as part of the Damascus-based response under the Mine Action Sub-Sector, to coordinate activities and set technical standards among victim assistance stakeholders in Syria.[9] Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provide services as and where they can operate in Syria. The total number of mine/ERW casualties and survivors in Syria is unknown. However, estimates place the number of those injured and killed at several thousand, while 14,594 victims were crecorded in the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) database as of May 2021.[10]

Mine action operations and capacity in Syria were significantly impacted in all areas in 2020 by COVID-19, which resulted in movement restrictions and limitations on activities.[11] Limited access due to safety and security restrictions continued to impact operational reach in Syria, as did funding shortfalls.

Treaty status

Treaty status overview

Mine Ban Treaty

Non-signatory

Convention on Cluster Munitions

Non-signatory

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

State Party

(Ratification: 10 July 2009)

Management and coordination

Mine action management and coordination

Humanitarian mine action commenced in Syria in 2015.[12] UNMAS operates in the country, but Syria has no national mine action authority.

Governed by the framework of agreements between Syria and UN agencies, funds, and programs, as well as by UN Security Council Resolution 2504, the Mine Action Area of Responsibility response includes all pillars of humanitarian mine action.[13]

Coordination

As the lead agency for mine action and coordinator for the Mine Action Area of Responsibility within the Global Protection Cluster,[14] the UNMAS Syria Response represents the mine action sector at the Whole of Syria level and is responsible for drafting key documents such as the Humanitarian Needs Overview and Humanitarian Response Plan. At operational level, a mine action sub-cluster is active in Gaziantep, Turkey, for humanitarian assistance delivered cross-border from Turkey. The mine action sub-cluster is co-lead by UNMAS and the HALO Trust, and meets monthly.[15]

UNMAS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Syrian government and has maintained a presence in Damascus since 2018.[16] Activities include risk education, victim assistance, and explosive ordnance assessments. A Damascus-based mine action sub-sector, led by UNMAS, was established in Damascus in October 2019.[17]

In northeast Syria, in the absence of a UN mechanism, the NGO Forum has adopted a parallel coordination structure to manage the response and a mine action working group is active under the protection working group. Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP) acts as the focal point for coordinating humanitarian mine action activities in northeast Syria.

Information management

An incident database is maintained at the regional level and is made available to partners in the humanitarian response. UNMAS maintains an IMSMA database for victim, accident, and risk education reports.[18] Since September 2017, iMMAP has provided information management services for northeast Syria, coordinating data received from operators on hazard locations and the results of non-technical survey, clearance, and risk education.[19] iMMAP also supports the Information Management Resource Center (IMRC), which was launched to support the Whole of Syria structure with information management, coordination, and capacity-building.[20]

Gender and diversity

Efforts to promote inclusive working conditions by UNMAS in Damascus resulted in a rise in the proportion of women employed in technical positions, from 33% in 2019 to 50% in 2020.[21]

Risk education management and coordination

UNMAS serves as the focal point for mine/ERW risk education in Syria, in its position as lead for the Mine Action Area of Responsibility at the Whole of Syria level.

From the Damascus-based response, a risk education working group was previously established by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) under the child protection sub-sector, and subsequently moved under the mine action sub-sector after its activation. UNMAS and UNICEF collaborate to harmonize and coordinate mine/ERW risk education activities for the Damascus-based response.[22] The Syria Hub technical standards and guidelines for risk education were under review as of June 2021.[23]

The Northwest Syria Mine Action Sub-Cluster established risk education standards for organizations operating within each geographic area.[24]

Coordination

Risk education activities are coordinated in each operational region of Syria by the relevant hub or mine-action sub-cluster group.

Operators conducting risk education in northwest Syria coordinate through the Mine Action Sub-Cluster. Risk education activities are endorsed by the Mine Action Sub-Cluster through the monthly dissemination of forward planning exercises to maximize outreach to at-risk communities and avoid the duplication of activities.[25] These operators also participate in the monthly Syria Protection Cluster meetings and the Mine Action Sub-Cluster meetings held in Gaziantep, Turkey. These meetings cover risk education, population movements, security developments, movement restrictions, IMSMA reporting, priorities, training, and materials.[26]

Operators conducting risk education activities from the Damascus-based response coordinate through the Mine Action Sub-Sector. Specific issues, such as the harmonization of messages and materials, are discussed at technical level through the Risk Education Working Group. Operators also participate in monthly Syria Protection and Community Services Sector meetings and the Mine Action Sub-Sector meetings held in Damascus.[27]

UNMAS collects information on the response through the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)-led ‘‘4Ws’’ system (who, what, where, when), and shares this information with mine action operators through dashboards.[28]

UNMAS collects monthly data on the activities of risk education operators in Syria, and also collates IMSMA reporting.[29] This information is used to inform risk education priorities for current and future projects.

The Explosive Hazards Risk Education (EHRE) Workstream, under the Regional Durable Solutions Working Group (RDSWG), was coordinated by UNMAS in 2020 to support a coordinated regional level response to risk education messages, materials, and approaches for Syrian refugees.[30]

Victim assistance management and coordination

Victim assistance management and coordination overview[31]

Government focal points

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour is responsible for assisting persons with disabilities in government-controlled areas

Coordination mechanisms

UNMAS coordinates victim assistance among humanitarian mine action actors; a Victim Assistance Working Group was established in October 2020 for the Damascus-based response; a number of other coordination bodies exist on specific issues

Plans/strategies

A draft National Disability Strategy was prepared, but after 2019 it was not reported if the strategy had been adopted

Disability sector integration

 

The Mine Action Area of Responsibility, headed by UNMAS, promotes the inclusion of persons with disabilities

Survivor inclusion and participation

N/R

Note: N/R=not reported.

Coordination

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour is responsible for providing assistance to persons with disabilities across Syria, but does not operate programs specific to victim assistance nor provide any form of assistance in opposition-held areas.

In October 2020, UNMAS established a Victim Assistance Working Group under the Mine Action Sub-Sector umbrella in Damascus, with the main objective of bringing together mine action actors and other multi-sectoral actors (including those working in protection, health, livelihoods, and education) to enhance access to services and social protection for survivors and indirect victims of explosive ordnance.[32]

A physical rehabilitation sub-group of the Health Sector Working Group in northwest Syria, chaired by the World Health Organization (WHO), meets regularly.[33]

A rehabilitation working group, under the Health Sector, also exists for the Damascus-based response but does not meet regularly due to the absence of a coordinator. A Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Working Group, also under the Health Sector, is in place for the Damascus-based response. There are regular exchanges between this working group and the Damascus-based Victim Assistance Working Group.[34]

The Mine Action Area of Responsibility, headed by UNMAS, has committed to promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in its response and other relevant services, such as education and socio-economic assistance.[35]

Laws and policies

During a briefing with the UN Security Council in April 2019, Syrian activist Nujeen Mustafa explained that persons with disabilities remained among the most vulnerable and neglected of all internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, particularly in areas of active conflict.[36]

The Syrian government ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2009 but offers little protection to persons with disabilities and has taken few, if any, measures to ensure accessibility or equality of access to services. Furthermore, government forces and their allies have destroyed many hospitals and healthcare facilities.[37] There was no evidence of serious attempts to enforce applicable laws in 2020.[38]

Impact

Contamination

As of the end of 2020, the full extent of contamination in Syria from landmines, cluster munition remnants, and ERW was unknown. Combined with the destruction of infrastructure and services, interruptions to humanitarian assistance, and the large numbers of people in need and displaced, the contamination poses significant risks to the population.[39]

The Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2021 reported that one in three populated communities were thought to be contaminated by explosive ordnance, while one in two people were at risk from contamination. The areas which experienced intense hostilities, including Aleppo, Idleb, Ar Raqqa, Deir-ez-Zor, Rural Damascus, and Dar’a governorates, were particularly affected.[40]

IMSMA data reports that 40% of communities, surveyed since 2011, have witnessed explosive incidents.[41]

From 2018–2020, the HALO Trust implementing partners conducted an assessment of contamination in 41 sub-districts in northwest Syria, covering 971 communities. Confirmed mine/ERW contamination was reported in 41% of these communities. Many inaccessible communities have experienced high levels of conflict and are also thought to be highly contaminated.[42]

Landmine contamination

Landmines, both commercially-manufactured and improvised, affect all regions of Syria, and vary in type according to the armed groups active there.

Contamination is particularly dense in areas that were occupied by the Islamic State. From Raqqa to Hassakeh governorate in the northeast, and south to Deir ez-Zor, retreating Islamic State forces left massive contamination by improvised mines and other IEDs.[43] Islamic State militants rigged everyday items and domestic objects to trigger powerful explosions, and many devices operated through tiny crush wires that were extremely hard to identify.[44] The United States (US) has described Raqqa as one of the most heavily contaminated places globally.[45]

In the northwestern governorates of Idleb and Aleppo, it was reported that mines and other types of explosive devices were planted in agricultural fields, villages, beside roads, and around schools and hospitals.[46] Rebel forces that subjected the towns of Foua and Kfraya to years of siege are reported to have left hundreds of mines in surrounding fields as well as leaving explosive devices in many homes. Further south in the governorates of Hama and Homs, open-source reports of mine casualties, although unconfirmed, suggest significant contamination left by all sides during years of conflict.[47]

In parts of southern governorates bordering Israel and Jordan, fewer mines are reported than other types of explosive hazards,[48] but Syrian reports point to the presence of Russian PMN-2 and PMN-4 antipersonnel mines.[49] Remotely delivered T-84 antivehicle mines were reportedly used in the Golan Heights in the southwest of Syria, which is already heavily contaminated with antipersonnel mines.[50] There are also reports that T-84 mines have been remotely deployed in the southwestern governorate of Dar’a.[51]

The Syrian government reportedly laid mines along its borders with Turkey and Lebanon in 2012. Turkey reportedly claimed that between 613,000 and 715,000 mines were planted along its border with Syria, while making clear that they had not been emplaced by Turkish forces.[52] Heavy casualties that occurred in Manbij—close to the Turkish border—after Kurdish forces pushed out Islamic State militants in mid-August 2016, attest to massive contamination by mines and other improvised devices that were still inflicting casualties in 2019.[53]

Cluster munition remnant contamination

Syria has widespread cluster munition remnants contamination resulting from the ongoing armed conflict, which began in 2011. Syrian and Russian government forces have used cluster munitions extensively.[54]

A survey by the HALO Trust in northwest Syria found that the most frequent type of explosive ordnance found were submunitions (36%); with other ordnance consisting of landmines (2%), IEDs (2%), and other ERW (60%). The highest occurrence of cluster munitions was throughout the southern part of northwest Syria, with greater occurrence of landmines and IEDs in the far north.[55]

From the end of April until June 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported attacks against opposition-controlled areas of Idleb, Hama, and Aleppo governorates on a daily basis.[56] Prior to that, cluster munition use, casualties, and contamination were reported in the governorates of Aleppo, Dar’a, Deir-ez-Zor, Hama, Homs, Idleb, and Quneitra, as well as in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.[57]

In February 2017, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported “an alarming number of incidents involving cluster munitions,” affirming that their use in densely populated areas such as eastern Aleppo “constitutes the war crime of indiscriminate attacks in a civilian populated area.”[58] Although the number of reported cluster munition attacks in Syria has decreased since mid-2017,[59] cluster munitions remained in use throughout 2019 and into 2020.[60]

ERW contamination

The Syrian Civil War, ongoing since 2011, has resulted in heavy contamination from the use of a wide range of types of explosive ordnance, including landmines, IEDs, air-dropped and artillery-delivered ordnance.

Casualties[61]

Many casualties go unreported or are excluded from the Monitor annual total due to inadequate details. Ambiguity in media reports often leaves it unclear whether the explosive device in each case was command-detonated or victim-activated. While classifying the data, many incidents causing casualties in Syria (including civilians) were reported to be from mines, booby-traps, roadside bombs, and IEDs, but were excluded from the annual casualty dataset wherever the cause of activation was not adequately defined.

Cluster munition casualties

In 2020, 182 cluster munition casualties were recorded in Syria, including 147 casualties from cluster munition remnants and 35 casualties that resulted directly from three cluster munition attacks, including two attacks on schools.

In both January and February 2020, schools were hit by cluster munitions shelling, resulting in civilian and child casualties. On 1 January, an attack killed at least 12 civilians, including five children, at Abdo Salama School in the town of Sarmin, in Idleb governorate. The attack injured between 10 to 20 other people.[62] On 25 February 2020, Thawra School, also known as Al Baraem School, in Idleb city, was hit by cluster munition shelling, resulting in the death of three teachers and the injury of five others.[63] Two civilians were also injured during a cluster munition attack in the southern suburbs of Idleb, on 10 January 2020.[64]

As with mines/ERW, due to challenges in data collection amid insecurity and ongoing conflict, the number of cluster munition casualties caused by both attacks and unexploded submunitions in Syria is likely to be under-reported. It is possible that some persons recorded as injured by other mine/ERW types were actually unexploded submunition casualties.

The Monitor has recorded a total of 4,099 cluster munition casualties in Syria, including 2,102 during attacks and 1,997 from cluster munition remnants. This total includes an additional 519 casualties from cluster munition remnants which occurred in the period 2015–2019 and were recorded in data collected by the HALO Trust.

Prior to new use of cluster munitions from 2012, at least five casualties from unexploded cluster submunitions had been recorded in Syria, including four child casualties in 2007. These casualties are included in the total [65]

Addressing the Impact

Mine action

Operators and service providers

The operators listed in the clearance and risk education sections of this profile do not represent all humanitarian actors, as several operate anonymously for security reasons.

Clearance operators[66]

National

Syrian Armed Forces

National NGOs

 

Syria Civil Defence Force (White Helmets)

Rojava Mine Control Organisation (RMCO)

International

 

Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations

Armenian Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise (ACHDE)

International NGOs/Commercial Companies

 

Many international NGOs and commercial companies operate in Syria; the Northwest Mine Action Sub-Cluster has 27 active members; the Damascus-based Mine Action Sub-Sector has 24 active members; the Northeast Mine Action Working Group has less than 10 members.

Note: NGO=non-governmental organization.

Clearance

The extent of clearance in Syria in 2020 was not reported. Due to the ongoing nature of conflict in Syria, all mine action activities in the country, particularly clearance, are severely inhibited.[67]

In government-held areas, Russian and Syrian military personnel have undertaken some clearance activities, although clearance figures are not publicly reported.[68] Russian deminers also provided training for Syrian Army engineers at training centers established in 2017 in Aleppo and Homs. By the start of January 2018, the Russian Armed Forces reported that they had trained 900 Syrian engineers.[69] In 2019, it was reported that Russia allocated US$1 million to support UNMAS mine action activities in Syria.[70]

In February 2019, Armenia sent a demining team to Syria to work in Aleppo governorate.[71] It was reported in August 2019 that the Armenian team had cleared 48,967m².[72] Turkey claimed to have cleared mines and other ERW in areas of northern Syria following its October 2019 cross-border offensive.[73]

Teams from the Syria Civil Defence Force (commonly known as the White Helmets) volunteer organization have conducted clearance and survey in northwestern Syria in the governorates of Aleppo and Idleb.[74] In 2020, the White Helmets reported clearing 333 cluster munition remnants, 312 other types of ERW, and one landmine.[75]

From 2017 until October 2020, 429 contaminated areas were identified by humanitarian mine action operators in northwest, northeast and southern Syria. In August 2020, the first UNMAS explosive ordnance assessments began in the governorate of Rural Damascus, in preparation for clearance activities in 2021.[76] Survey has been carried out in 250 communities across 27 sub-districts in Syria, combined with the marking of hazardous areas where possible.[77] The majority (246) of these communities were in northwestern Syria, with four in southern Syria.

In total, 7,054,432m² of contaminated land has been identified through survey by operators.

In 2020, new antipersonnel mine contamination was identified in five areas, totaling 22,704m2. In Al-Hasakeh, two confirmed hazardous areas (CHA) were identified, totaling 3,591m2, while an additional three CHAs were identified in Ar-Raqqa, totaling 19,113m2.

New cluster munition remnant contamination was also identified in 2020, totaling 3,352,952m2 across 183 CHAs in Syria. In Ar-Raqqa, 132 CHAs covering 1,337,818m2 were found, while another 43 CHAs covering 1,578,442 were identified in Al-Hasakeh. Another two CHAs in Deir ez-Zor totaled 4,331m2. In Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, six CHAs were identified in the period between August 2020 and April 2021: two areas in Najada totaled 189,161m2, while four contaminated areas in Shweha totaled 243,200m2.

UNMAS reported that whilst access for mine action activities had improved, limited access in most areas had restricted its operational reach and adequate mentoring for mine action teams, also hampering quality assurance mechanisms.[78] The expansion of explosive ordnance survey and clearance operations remained a critical priority.

Following hostilities in late 2019, areas in the northeast, notably in Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Al-Hasakeh governorates, remained difficult to access due to contamination and recontamination of areas previously cleared by humanitarian mine action operators.[79]

Risk education

Operators and service providers

Risk education operators[80]

Type of organization

Name of organization

Type of activity

Governmental

Ministry of Health

Supports risk education integrated into health campaigns

Ministry of Education

Supports risk education in schools

Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Affairs)

Supports risk education training for religious leaders

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Supports and coordinates risk education

Ministry of Social Affairs

Supports risk education projects implemented by national NGOs and civil society groups

National

White Helmets

Risk education sessions at community and household level, and for children in schools

Shafak

Risk education as a local implementing partner of the HALO Trust since 2016

Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)

Risk education through coordinators and volunteers from Red Crescent branches nationwide

International

The HALO Trust

Through implementing partner Shafak in northwest Syria, provides emergency risk education, risk education in schools and local communities, and training of trainers

Danish Refugee Council (DRC) (formerly Danish Demining Group, DDG)

Training of trainers for schoolteachers at the request of the Ministry of Education, and risk education at community level

Hand in Hand for Aid and Development (HIHFAD)

In northwest Syria since 2012 and working with the HALO Trust since 2018, to provide risk education for adults and children. Operates across Idleb governorate and three districts of Aleppo governorate

Humanitarian Mine Action Association Turkey (Insani Mayın Faaliyeti Derneği, iMFAD)

Risk education in Turkish-administered districts of Aleppo governorate since 2019. Conducted a nine-month project from April–December 2019 in northwest Syria, providing risk education for children through activities in communities and schools

ITF Enhancing Human Security

Risk education project in Raqqa, began January 2020

Civil Volunteer Group (Gruppo Di Volontariato Civilie, GVC)

Risk education as part of emergency service and protection interventions

International Cooperation (Cooperazione Internazionale, COOPI)

Risk education as part of broader food security and protection interventions

Intersos

Risk education as part of broader primary health, child protection and education in emergencies programming

Terres des Hommes (TDH)

Risk education as part of broader child protection programming

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (GOPA)

Risk education as part of broader child protection programming

Secours Islamic France (SIF)

Risk education as part of broader shelter and child welfare programming

UNICEF

Risk education for children, integrated with other interventions such as immunization and polio campaigns. Also supports the inclusion of risk education in the school curriculum, and supports local risk education organizations

UNMAS

Trains community-based risk educators to deliver risk education, and produces risk education materials for distribution among UN agencies and humanitarian partners

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Risk education as part of awareness-raising activities, to reduce vulnerability and enhance protection

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

Risk education as part of protection activities

Note: NGO=non-governmental organization.

In addition to national operators listed in the table above, there are many local organizations conducting risk education in Syria, including Fouadi NGO; Al-Mawada; Al-Tamayouz; Al-Ihsan Charity; Almabarrat Charity NGO for Golan people; Al-Shaheed foundation; Anis Saadeh; Al-Taalouf NGO; Church of Lady CCFP Committee; Education and Illiteracy Eradication Association; Inaash Al Faqeer Charity in Al-Tal, Nama’a Developmental Association; Misyaf Charity NGO; Souria Al Yamama Association; and the Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD).

Beneficiary numbers

In total, 1,951,296 beneficiaries were reached through risk education in Syria in 2020, while more than 1,100 humanitarian workers were trained in risk awareness to support humanitarian access.[81] Operators reported that persons with disabilities were reached through risk education in Syria, although participant numbers were not always recorded. UNICEF reported training 1,210 professionals to deliver risk education in 2020.[82] The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) reported holding information sessions for some 120,000 people, including schoolchildren, returnees, farmers, and truffle hunters.[83]

Risk education in Syria reached almost one million fewer people in 2020 than in 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the temporary suspension of in-person activities, movement restrictions, and limits to the number of people who could attend risk education sessions.[84]

Implementation

Target groups[85]

Communities across Syria were reported to be at risk, due to contamination of agricultural land, private housing, and community infrastructure including schools, hospitals, markets, roads, and water and sanitation systems. Identified risk behaviors including moving items of ordnance and clearing rubble from damaged buildings.[86]

Men were reported to be more likely to engage in high-risk livelihood activities such as manual labour, construction work, and agricultural activities. Most of the incidents recorded on or near roads impacted men. This may be related to return, displacement, or travelling to look for work. Men were also reported to be at high-risk of incidents when attempting to move ERW to safer places. Reaching men was often challenging, as risk education was conducted only in daylight hours due to security concerns, a time when most men in the community were out at work.

For children—particularly boys—incidents often occurred when engaging in activities such as playing with items, undertaking farming activities, and caring for livestock.

Women were reported to be at risk from ERW near the home, but were often more difficult for risk education operators to reach in conservative areas.

Other risk groups in Syria include IDPs living in camps and host communities. More than 1.8 million displacement movements were recorded in Syria in 2019.[87] In 2020, a report by REACH on the coping strategies of IDPs and residents in northwest Syria noted that some communities relied on negative strategies to cope with decreased household income. In over half of the communities surveyed, children were sent to work or beg to meet basic needs.[88] In 2020, COVID-19 aggravated an already precarious social and economic crisis in Syria, leading to concern that more people may be forced to adopt unsafe behaviors, increasing their exposure to mines/ERW.[89]

Delivery methods

Risk education is conducted in both rural and urban areas and is reported to be age and gender sensitive. Operators provided risk education messaging related to all types of contamination in Syria, including landmines, cluster munition remnants, and improvised mines.[90]

Risk education in Syria is delivered on an interpersonal basis and is often combined with survey and clearance, and integrated with activities undertaken by other sectors, including education, shelter, food security, and livelihoods.[91] From Damascus, humanitarian partners continued to work in coordination with various Syrian government ministries to deliver risk education.

UNICEF implemented risk education alongside immunization, water, sanitation, hygiene, and polio campaigns; and provided risk education to adolescent boys and girls through temporary learning centers, with a program of life skills, psychosocial support, and protection. In Deir ez-Zor governorate, children who had dropped out of school were referred to relevant health or education services and received mine/ERW risk education and awareness on health, nutrition, education, hygiene, and sanitation. The initiative also included house-to-house visits, sessions in schools and mosques, meetings with key influencers and community leaders, and the distribution of educational materials.[92]

UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education to integrate mine/ERW risk education into the national school curriculum in 2018–2019.[93] Lessons were included across different subject areas in the official curriculum for grades two to eleven.[94] The Damascus-level Risk Education Working Group plans to look at officially integrating risk education into the curriculum, as part of their new terms of reference.[95]

Risk education messages in Syria were disseminated via the use of small, printed media; as well as being displayed on billboards. In 2020, UNMAS and UNICEF produced a risk education video for children, which featured a sign language interpreter.[96]

Major developments in 2020

COVID-19 had a significant impact on risk education activities in Syria in 2020. From March–June, risk education activities were suspended until safer delivery approaches were developed. Organizations updated standard operating procedures to incorporate safety measures related to COVID-19. Some funding meant for risk education was reduced or diverted for use as part of the COVID-19 response, at the request of donors.[97]

COVID-19 and hygiene promotion messages were incorporated into the risk education sessions of some operators, and remote risk education methods were also adopted. UNMAS, ICRC, and the Syrian Red Cross deployed indirect methods for messaging; including mobile messaging, and messaging via social media, news websites, radio, television, and billboards.[98] The HALO Trust conducted a risk education campaign by radio in northern Aleppo, and its messages were communicated using loudspeakers on vehicles.[99] The distribution of printed materials was suspended to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.[100]

The HALO Trust and Shafak conducted baseline and endline surveys to inform the tailoring of messages for risk education and COVID-19 in northwest Syria, focusing on children, teenagers, women, IDPs, agricultural workers, and rubble removers.[101]

Victim assistance

Victim assistance providers and activities

Victim assistance operators[102]

Type of organization

Name of organization

Type of activity

Governmental

Ministry of Health

Healthcare, and runs the physical rehabilitation department at Ibn Nafis Hospital in Damascus

Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour

Physical rehabilitation

Ministry of Higher Education

Healthcare through a network of university teaching hospitals

Ministry of Defense

 

Healthcare and rehabilitation, including at the Ahmad Hamish Hospital for military staff and their families

Central Council for Persons with Disabilities

Physical rehabilitation

National

Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)

First aid and medical care, including within IDP camps. Rehabilitation services, provided at the Damascus Physical Rehabilitation Center

 

White Helmets

Emergency medical care

International

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Primary and trauma care through mobile medical teams

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Support to healthcare services, hospitals, and physical rehabilitation programs

 

 

World Health Organization (WHO)

Support to the Health Cluster, including emergency care and surgical services, physical rehabilitation, technical support, and provision of medical supplies and equipment

Hand in Hand for Aid and Development (HIHFAD)

Operates hospitals and healthcare facilities, including specialized trauma and rehabilitation centers

Medair

Assistive devices, referrals and transport to the Aleppo Physical Rehabilitation Center, training on functional rehabilitation, disability awareness, and inclusion for health workers

The HALO Trust

Amputee Survivor Assistance Project, providing prosthetics to survivors through Syrian partner organizations

Said Foundation for Development (SFD)

Runs a program for children with disabilities in Syria

Syria Relief

Prosthetics and long-term rehabilitative care

Syria Relief and Development (SRD)

Psychosocial and physical rehabilitation services

UNMAS

Coordinates victim assistance among humanitarian mine action actors, including physical rehabilitation, psychosocial support, medical support, referrals, and self-care through mobile teams

Note: IDP=internally displaced person.

Needs assessment

A disability assessment using the Washington Group questions,[103] conducted in June 2019, found that 3.7 million (27%) of the total Syrian population over 12-years-old had a disability. Rural Damascus had the highest disability rate, explained in part by its protracted exposure to high-intensity conflict.[104] The impact of disabilities was compounded due to ongoing conflict, and limited access to income-generating activities and medical assistance. The survey found that 62% of people with disabilities were unemployed, compared to 48% of those surveyed with no disability.[105] Household income-generation opportunities were likely further compromised, as 56% of people over 40-years-old, and 33% of household heads, had a disability.[106]

Medical care and rehabilitation

Ongoing conflict and insecurity restricted access to essential medical services for mine/ERW victims. Emergency response and first aid is limited, while Syria faces shortages of trained medical personnel and health facilities, and has suffered damage to transport infrastructure.[107] According to a study carried out by Hand in Hand for Aid and Development (HIHFAD), some sub-districts such as Raju and Sheikh El-Hadid in Afrin, and Ma’batli in Aleppo, were in need of almost all basic health services.[108]

The COVID-19 pandemic made it increasingly difficult for persons with disabilities to receive medical care. The Syrian government did not provide assistance for persons with disabilities in terms of access to information, communications, buildings, or transportation.[109]

The ICRC supported 29 hospitals and three physical rehabilitation programs in 2020.[110] The ICRC also provided assistance to IDPs, returnees, and those affected by conflict, including support to the Al-Hol IDP camp.[111]

In 2020, the ICRC supported physical rehabilitation centers in Damascus and Aleppo through SARC. Physical rehabilitation was also provided to individuals being held in detention, particularly in Aleppo, through SARC. About 1,300 persons with disabilities, including 741 victims of mines/ERW, received prostheses or orthoses, and physiotherapy, at the ICRC physical rehabilitation center in Aleppo and the ICRC-supported National Society Center in Damascus. Shuttle services organized with National Society branches transported patients from surrounding governorates to the center in Damascus, and a similar service was being set up in Aleppo.[112] However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the centers received fewer patients than planned, and none from mid-March to mid-June. The National Society Center in Damascus was set move to an ICRC-renovated building in 2021.[113]

Within the framework of the Global Protection Cluster, UNMAS supported first response and rehabilitation services to assist survivors of mine/ERW incidents. These efforts continued during the pandemic in compliance with COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures. This proved to be crucial as densely populated areas faced heightened vulnerability to COVID-19 alongside exposure to explosive ordnance contamination.[114]

Through a project funded by the European Union (EU), the HALO Trust supported three rehabilitation clinics, four prosthetic centers, and five mobile outreach units in northwest Syria. From mid-2019 to the end of 2020, the HALO Trust provided 219 prosthetics and reached over 3,000 survivors with a combination of physiotherapy sessions, psychosocial support, peer support counselling, and multipurpose assistance for 300 households.[115]

Socio-economic and psychosocial inclusion

A study conducted by HIHFAD in 2018 found that “in all subdistricts, mental health and psychosocial support services are either not available or not accessible.”[116] The WHO supported mental health mobile clinics for IDPs in northern Syria, funded by Japan.[117] Many organizations deliver psychosocial and socio-economic programs, but there is no coordinated nationwide provision.

The ICRC made psychosocial services available at its physical rehabilitation center in Aleppo, the field hospital at the al-Hol camp, and at the National Society’s physical rehabilitation center in Damascus, and made referrals to social integration projects.[118]

One association held a wheelchair-basketball tournament in December 2020, with the ICRC’s financial support.[119]

Conflict and emergencies

Attacks on medical facilities by the Syrian and Russian armed forces continued to be reported in 2019, with 82% of these attacks occurring in the northwest of the country.[120] Attacks on health care facilities were reported to have dropped by 67% in 2020, compared to 2019.[121] However, the detrimental effects of these attacks were ongoing. A survey by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) published in 2021 found that the vast majority of health workers in the northwest (84%) reported that attacks on health care directly affected them, their team or their patients, and a similar percentage (81%) personally knew of patients or colleagues who had been killed in the attacks.[122]

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70% of the health workforce had fled the country.[123] PHR reported that medical personnel have also been arrested, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, or executed.[124]

The rising number of casualties caused by explosive ordnance in Syria is further exacerbating demand on the country’s overwhelmed health services.[125] In 2020, only 58% of hospitals and 53% of primary health care centers were fully functional.[126]

In 2020, UNMAS and its humanitarian mine action partners provided victim assistance services to more than 13,000 people, but resources remain limited and insufficient to meet needs.[127]

Health facilities in Syria came under further pressure in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. iMMAP assisted the Northeast Syria Health Cluster, and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Cluster, to implement an infection prevention and control survey, to rapidly assess the capacity of healthcare facilities to adequately respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases.[128]



[1] Monitor analysis of Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED) data for calendar year 2019, Curated Data File: Middle East. See, Clionadh Raleigh, Andrew Linke, Håvard Hegre, and Joakim Karlsen, “Introducing ACLED-Armed Conflict Location and Event Data,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 47, Issue 5, 28 September 2010, pp. 651–660.

[2]Islamic State is Losing Land but Leaving Mines Behind,” The Economist, 30 March 2017.

[3] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), “Humanitarian Needs Overview: Syrian Arab Republic,” March 2021, p. 60.

[4] Ibid.

[5] United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated October 2020.

[6] Regional Durable Solutions Working Group, Explosive Hazards Risk Education Workstream (RDSWG-EHRE Workstream), “Syrian Arab Republic, Explosive Hazards Risks Governorate Profile,” May 2021, p. 3; and UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021.

[7] RDSWG-EHRE Workstream, “Syrian Arab Republic, Explosive Hazards Risks Governorate Profile,” May 2021, p. 3; and UNOCHA, “Annual Report 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan: Syrian Arab Republic,” October 2020, p. 20.

[8] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Needs Overview: Syrian Arab Republic,” March 2021, p. 60.

[9] Email from Audrey Torrecilla, Risk Education Project Manager, UNMAS Syria Response, 22 June 2021.

[11] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021.

[12] Monitor interview with Gilles Delecourt, Senior Programme Manager, UNMAS, in Geneva, 16 February 2018.

[13] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Response Plan: Syrian Arab Republic,” December 2020, p. 40.

[14] Global Protection Cluster, “Mine Action Area of Responsibility,” undated.

[15] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex De Luna and Esra Bektas, Programme Officers, HALO Trust, 15 March 2021.

[16] Miri Wood, “Syria, UN Mine Action Service, Sign MOU,” Syria News, 8 July 2018.

[17] Email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021.

[18] Email from Audrey Torrecilla, Risk Education Project Manager, UNMAS Syria Response, 22 June 2021.

[19] Email from Noor Zangana, Technical Adviser for Syria and Iraq, iMMAP, 18 July 2018.

[20] iMMAP, “Syria: Our Program,” undated.

[21] UNMAS, “UNMAS Annual Report 2020,” 2021, p. 34.

[22] Email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021.

[23] Email from Audrey Torrecilla, Risk Education Project Manager, UNMAS Syria Response, 22 June 2021.

[24] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex DeLuna, Programme Officer, HALO Trust, 30 April 2020.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex De Luna and Esra Bektas, Programme Officers, HALO Trust, 15 March 2021.

[27] Email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex DeLuna, Programme Officer, HALO Trust, 30 April 2020; and UNOCHA, ‘‘United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: Syria Hub,’’ undated.

[30] Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), “Review of New Technologies and Methodologies for Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) in Challenging Contexts,” August 2020, p. 59; and response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex DeLuna, Programme Officer, HALO Trust, 20 April 2020.

[31] Information on the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour obtained from US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, ‘‘2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Syria,’’ 2020, p. 61. For further detail on UNMAS coordination efforts, see UN General Assembly (UNGA), “Assistance in Mine Action: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/74/288, 6 August 2019; and UNOCHA, ‘‘Syrian Arab Republic: 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan (January-December 2019),’’ 29 August 2019, p. 36. Details on the National Disability Strategy provided in emails from Elizabeth Hoff, Representative in Syria, World Health Organization (WHO), 23 March 2019 and 19 February 2018.

[32] UNMAS, “UNMAS Annual Report 2020,” 2021, p. 23.

[33] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Elizabeth Hoff, Representative in Syria, WHO, 23 March 2019.

[34] Email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021.

[35] Ibid.

[36] US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, ‘‘2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Syria,’’ 2020, p. 61.

[37] Ibid., pp. 61–62.

[38] US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Syria,” 2021, p. 62.

[39] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Response Plan: Syrian Arab Republic,” December 2020, p. 16.

[40] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Needs Overview: Syrian Arab Republic,” March 2021, p. 60.

[41] RDSWG-EHRE Workstream, “Syrian Arab Republic, Explosive Hazards Risks Governorate Profile,” undated, p. 1.

[43]Islamic State is Losing Land but Leaving Mines Behind,’’ The Economist, 30 March 2017.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Sirwan Kajjo, ‘‘Landmine Removal Crucial in Post-IS Syria,’’ VOA News, 3 April 2019.

[46] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), ‘‘Syria: patient numbers double in northeast as more people return home to landmines,’’ 3 April 2018.

[47] Jannie Schipper, ‘‘Syrian volunteers risk lives to clear landmines,’’ Al Jazeera, 8 April 2016.

[48] See, for example, HALO Trust, “Survey and explosive hazard removal in Dar’a and Quneitra Governorates, Southern Syria,” 2017, p. 6.

[49] Ivan Kochin and N. R. Jenzen-Jones, ‘‘Russian PMN-4 anti-personnel mines in southern Syria,’’ Armament Research Services, 1 October 2015.

[50] Mark Hiznay, ‘‘Remotely delivered antivehicle mines spotted in Syria,’’ Human Rights Watch (HRW), 25 April 2014.

[51] Monitor telephone interview with Luke Irving, Specialist Training and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Manager, Mayday Rescue, 16 October 2017.

[52] HRW, ‘‘Syria: Army planting banned landmines,’’ 13 March 2012; and, ‘‘Thousands of landmines planted along Turkish-Syrian border,’’ Middle East Monitor, 21 November 2013.

[53] See, ‘‘ISIS mines still a threat to residents of Manbij,’’ Zaman News, 3 February 2017; ACLED, ‘‘Curated Data File: Middle East,’’ 2019; and Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), ‘‘Curated Data File: Syria,’’ 2019.

[54] HRW, ‘‘Syria: Evidence of Islamic State Cluster Munition Use,’’ 1 September 2014.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Human Rights Council, ‘‘Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,’’ A/HRC/34/64, 2 February 2017, p. 57. In an annex on the applicable law, the commission asserts that: “When used in densely-populated areas such weapons [cluster munitions] are inherently indiscriminate.”

[59] HRW, ‘‘Cluster Munitions: Ban Treaty is Working,’’ 29 August 2019.

[61] Casualty data for 2020 was obtained through Monitor media scanning throughout the year; analysis of ACLED data for calendar year 2020; analysis of the Violations Documentation Unit database; and data from other sources. For further details on ACLED, see Clionadh Raleigh, Andrew Linke, Håvard Hegre, and Joakim Karlsen, “Introducing ACLED-Armed Conflict Location and Event Data,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 47, Issue 5, 28 September 2010, pp. 651–660.

[63] Ibid., pp.10 and 13; and Amnesty International, “Nowhere is Safe for us: Unlawful Attacks and Mass Displacement in North-West Syria,” 2020, p. 19.

[65] Humanity & Inclusion (HI), Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities, (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 132.

[66] The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations has announced plans to take part in landmine clearance in Syria together with the Syrian government and UNMAS. See, Counter-IED Report, ‘‘Russian Emergencies Ministry to join Syria landmine clearance operation,’’ 27 July 2018. See also, AOAV, ‘‘Tetra Tech in Syria,’’ 8 January 2020; and Jennifer Dathan, ‘‘The environmental consequences of explosive weapon use: UXO,’’ AOAV, 3 July 2020. Information on clearance operators also obtained from iMMAP, ‘‘Coordination Support to Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) Actors,’’ undated; and email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021.

[67] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated October 2020.

[68]Russia sends demining team to Syria to clear Aleppo’s liberated areas,” PressTV, 3 December 2016; “Russia sends 150 demining experts to Syria’s Palmyra: agencies,” Reuters, 16 March 2017; and “Russian sappers arrive in Syria’s Deir ez-Zour,” TASS Russian News Agency, 11 September 2017.

[70]Russia allocates $1 million to UN for demining of Syrian territories,” TASS Russian News Agency, 15 March 2019.

[72] Siranush Chazanxhyan, “Armenian de-miners clear an area of 48,967 square meters in Syria,” Public Radio of Armenia, 27 August 2019.

[73]Turkey clears mines, explosives in Northern Syria,” Counter-IED Report, 31 October 2019.

[74] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Michael Edwards, Explosive Hazards Operations Manager, White Helmets, 6 May 2020.

[75] Ibid., 19 April 2021.

[76] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021; and UNMAS, “Annual Report 2020,” 2021, p. 20.

[77] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021.

[78] Ibid.

[79] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Response Plan: Syrian Arab Republic,” December 2020, p. 39.

[80] The list of operators is compiled based on available information and may not be comprehensive. Information on activities of risk education operators in Syria obtained from: response to Monitor questionnaire by Michael Edwards, Explosive Hazards Operations Manager, White Helmets, 6 May 2020; UNICEF, ‘‘Explosive hazards pose fatal risks to children and families in Syria,’’ 4 April 2018; Shafak, ‘‘About Shafak: Who We Are,’’ undated; response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex DeLuna and Esra Bektas, Programme Officers, HALO Trust, 15 March 2021; SARC, ‘‘SARC held a training course on mines and war remnant risk education,’’ 7 April 2019; DDG, ‘‘Where We Work: Syria: ERW Risk Education Project in Syria,’’ undated; DDG, ‘‘Where We Work: Syria: ERW Risk Education Project in Syria,’’ undated; Hand in Hand for Syria, ‘‘Protection,’’ undated; iMFAD, ‘‘Project: Mine/EW Risk Education,’’ undated; UNICEF Risk Education Strategic Monitoring Questions data for 2019, provided by Hugues Laurenge, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, 2 June 2020; UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021; and UNMAS, “UNMAS Annual Report 2020,” 2021, p. 17.

[81] RDSWG-EHRE Workstream, “Syrian Arab Republic, Explosive Hazards Risks Governorate Profile,” May 2021, p. 3; and UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021.

[82] UNICEF, “Mine Action 2020: Summary of Results,” May 2021.

[83] ICRC, “Annual Report 2020,” 1 July 2021, p. 498.

[84] See, UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021; responses to Monitor questionnaire by Michael Edwards, Explosive Hazards Operations Manager, White Helmets, 19 March 2021; and Alex DeLuna and Esra Bektas, Programme Officers, HALO Trust, 15 March 2021.

[85] Information on target groups from RDSWG-EHRE Workstream, “Syrian Arab Republic, Explosive Hazards Risks Governorate Profile,” May 2021, p. 2; responses to Monitor questionnaire by Michael Edwards, Explosive Hazards Operations Manager, White Helmets, 6 May 2020 and 19 March 2021; responses by Alex DeLuna, Programme Officer, HALO Trust, 30 April 2020 and 15 March 2021; email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021; HALO Trust, “A Hidden Emergency: Why Explosive Ordnance Contamination must be addressed now in Northwest Syria,” December 2020, p. 7; and ITF Enhancing Human Security, “Annual Report 2020,” April 2021, pp. 68–69.

[86] HALO Trust, “A Hidden Emergency: Why Explosive Ordnance Contamination must be addressed now in Northwest Syria,” December 2020, p. 7; response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex DeLuna and Esra Bektas, Programme Officers, HALO Trust, 15 March 2021; and email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021.

[87] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Response Plan: Syrian Arab Republic,” December 2020, p. 8.

[89] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021.

[90] Responses to Monitor questionnaire by Alex DeLuna, Programme Officer, HALO Trust, 30 April 2020; and Michael Edwards, Explosive Hazards Operations Manager, White Helmets, 6 May 2020.

[91] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021; response to Monitor questionnaire by Michael Edwards, Explosive Hazards Operations Manager, White Helmets, 6 May 2020; and ITF Enhancing Human Security, “Annual Report 2020,” April 2021, pp. 68–69.

[92] UNICEF, Risk Education Strategic Monitoring Questions data for 2019, provided by Hugues Laurenge, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, 2 June 2020.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Email from Hugues Laurenge, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, 12 July 2021; and from Lama Shabani, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF, 13 July 2021.

[95] Email from Audrey Torrecilla, Risk Education Project Manager, UNMAS Syria Response, 22 June 2021.

[96] ‘‘Syria: UNMAS-UNICEF Explosive Ordnance Awareness Campaign,’’ YouTube.com, 22 October 2020.

[97] Email from Francesca Chiaudani, Whole of Syria/Syria Hub Mine Action Coordinator, UNMAS, 30 June 2021.

[98] UNMAS, “UNMAS Annual Report 2020,” 2021, p. 18; and ICRC, “Annual Report 2020,” 1 July 2021, p. 500.

[99] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Alex DeLuna and Esra Bektas, Programme Officers, HALO Trust, 15 March 2021.

[100] Responses to Monitor questionnaire by Michael Edwards, Explosive Hazards Operations Manager, White Helmets, 19 March 2021; and Alex DeLuna and Esra Bektas, Programme Officers, HALO Trust, 15 March 2021.

[101] HALO Trust, “Explosive Ordnance and COVID-19 Baseline Survey Findings in Northwest Syria, 9–20 August 2020,” 2021.

[102] Information on the activities of victim assistance operators in Syria obtained in response to Monitor questionnaire by Elizabeth Hoff, Representative in Syria, WHO, 23 March 2019; Zeina Karam, ‘‘Wounded Syrian soldiers learn to live with war disabilities,’’ AP News, 8 October 2018; ICRC, ‘‘Annual Report 2019,’’ 29 June 2020, p. 479; HIHFAD, ‘‘Health,’’ undated; email from Joy Wright, Health Advisor, Medair, 14 April 2019; HALO Trust, ‘‘Where We Work: Syria,’’ undated; Stephen Thompson, ‘‘Disability in Syria,’’ Institute of Development Studies, 8 March 2017; Syria Relief, ‘‘Syria Relief's Prosthetic Limb Clinic,’’ undated; SRD, ‘‘Our Programs,” 2017; and UN General Assembly, “Report of the Secretary-General, Assistance in mine action,” A/74/288, 6 August 2019. The list of operators is compiled based on available information and may not be comprehensive.

[103] The Washington Group on Disability Statistics was established under the United Nations Statistical Commission to develop internationally comparable population-based measures of disability. For more details, see Washington Group on Disability Statistics webpage.

[105] Ibid., p. 6.

[106] Ibid., p. 8.

[107] AOAV, ‘‘The reverberating effects of explosive weapon use in Syria,’’ January 2019, p. 16.

[108] HIHFAD, ‘‘Multi-Sector Needs Assessment Findings,’’ September 2018, p. 2.

[109] US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Syria,” 2021, p. 62.

[110] ICRC, “Annual Report 2020,” 1 July 2021, p. 502.

[111] Ibid., p. 499; and ICRC, ‘‘Annual Report 2019,’’ 29 June 2020, p. 480.

[112] ICRC, ‘‘Annual Report 2019,’’ 29 June 2020, pp. 489–500 and 502.

[113] Ibid, pp. 489–500.

[114] UNMAS, “UNMAS Annual Report 2020,” 2021, p. 23.

[116] HIHFAD, “Multi-Sector Needs Assessment Findings,” September 2018, p. 2.

[117] WHO, ‘‘8 ways WHO supports health in Syria,’’ 14 March 2019; and WHO, ‘‘Reaching out with mental health services for displaced Syrians,’’ 16 May 2018.

[118] ICRC, “Annual Report 2020,” 1 July 2021, p. 500.

[119] Ibid., pp. 499–500.

[120] WHO, ‘‘WHO statement on attacks against health care in north-west Syria,’’ 1 September 2019; Evan Hill and Christiaan Triebert, ‘‘12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia,’’ The New York Times, 13 October 2019; and WHO, ‘‘In 4 years, 494 attacks on health killed 470 patients and health staff in Syria,’’ March 2020.

[121] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Needs Overview: Syrian Arab Republic,” March 2021, p. 74.

[122] IRC, “A decade of destruction: attacks on health care in Syria,” 3 March 2021 (last updated 21 March 2021).

[123] International Rescue Committee (IRC), “A Decade of Destruction: Attacks on Health Care in Syria,” 3 March 2021, p.4.

[125] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated October 2020.

[126] UNOCHA, “Humanitarian Needs Overview: Syrian Arab Republic,” March 2021, p. 74.

[127] UNMAS, ‘‘Programmes: Syria,’’ updated March 2021.

[128] iMMAP, “Annual Report 2020,” 2021, p. 11.


Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 12 November 2020

Policy

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

Syria has articulated the same position on the 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 public statements on its landmine policy or participated in treaty meetings as an observer. Syria’s attendance at the Mine Ban Treaty’s Fourth Review Conference in Oslo, Norway in November 2019 marked the first time since 2006 that it had participated in a meeting of the treaty.[2] Syria made a statement that said 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.[3]

Since 1996, Syria has abstained from voting on every annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the Mine Ban Treaty, including UNGA Resolution 74/61, which promotes the universalization and full implementation of the treaty, on 12 December 2019.[4]

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

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, showed up to 20 PMN-4 antipersonnel mines being removed from the ground.[5] 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 they were manufactured in Russia in 1995.

During the existence of the Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria, antipersonnel mines appear to have been systematically produced and emplaced in conflict areas by Islamic State-affiliated armed groups, but little information or details 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, during the summer of 2019.[6]

Use

Landmine Monitor has not documented or confirmed during this reporting period (October 2019–October 2020) 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.[7] A Syrian official acknowledged the government had “undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines.”[8]

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 on farmland near Kernaz, in northern Hama.[9]

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

For details on landmine use by combatants in Syria during the 2016–2017 period, see previous Landmine Monitor reporting.[11]

Between September 2015 and January 2017, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) successfully cleared 7,500 improvised mines and other improvised devices 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.



[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 at the Seventh Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in September 2006.

[3] Statement of the Syrian Arab Republic, Mine Ban Treaty Fourth Review Conference, Oslo, 29 November 2019.

[4] “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction,” UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 74/61, 12 December 2019.

[5] “28-9-2015 Clear the mines that the regime forces planted in the eastern neighborhood of the city of Daraa countryside,” YouTube.com, posted on 28 September 2015. See also, Conflict Armament Research, “Russian PMN-4 anti-personnel landmines in Syria,” 1 October 2015.

[6] See, Woofers (NotWoofers), “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.

[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,” The Associated Press, 1 November 2011.

[9] 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.

[10] In 2016, reports of mine use by the Islamic State increased. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reported several incidents from mines that Islamic State fighters likely laid as the group controlled the territory for prolonged periods of time. For example, in Aleppo governorate alone, the SNHR reported civilian casualties in August, September, and October 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 the SNHR reporting 12 casualties in Raqqa governorate in just 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 Homs province when a landmine emplaced by the Islamic State exploded.

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

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


Support for Mine Action

Last updated: 16 November 2020

In 2019, 17 donors reported contributing a total of US$42.5 million to mine action activities in the Syrian Arab Republic; $24.2 million less than in 2018 when international funding totaled $66.7 million.[1] Syria was the fifth largest recipient of international support to mine action in 2019.

The European Union provided the largest contribution with $16 million, to support mine action activities. This represented 38% of the total international mine action assistance in Syria for 2019. In addition, Australia, Germany, and Norway also provided substantial assistance to mine action activities in Syria and contributed a combined total of almost $11.4 million.

International contributions: 2019[2]

Donor

Sector

Amount

(national currency)

Amount

(US$)

European Union

Various

€14,300,000

16,007,420

Australia

Risk education and victim assistance

A$5,800,000

4,032,160

Germany

Clearance, risk education, and victim assistance

€3,530,140

3,951,639

Norway

Clearance and risk education

NOK30,000,000

3,409,052

New Zealand

Victim assistance

NZ$4,500,000

2,965,950

Japan

Clearance, risk education, and victim assistance

¥310,385,827

2,847,054

Austria

Clearance and risk education

€1,778,614

1,990,980

Denmark

Clearance and risk education

DKK10,291,000

1,542,809

Switzerland

Risk education

CHF1,355,000

1,363,591

Russia

Clearance, risk education, and victim assistance

N/R

1,000,000

Finland

Clearance, risk education, and victim assistance

€720,000

805,968

France

Capacity-building and clearance

€614,000

687,312

Italy

Clearance, risk education, and victim assistance

€550,000

615,670

Canada

Clearance and risk education

C$718,309

541,344

Slovenia

Risk education

€295,546

330,834

Netherlands

Risk education and victim assistance

€202,450

226,623

Sweden

Clearance and risk education

SEK2,000,000

211,408

Total

 

N/A

42,529,814

Note: N/A=not applicable; N/R=not reported.

International contributions to mine action in Syria fluctuated from $11.3 million in 2015 to more than $92 million in 2017, totaling approximately $232 million in the five-year period from 2015–2019 (more than two-fifths of which was provided in 2017).

Summary of international contributions: 2015–2019[3]

Year

International contributions

(US$)

2019

42,529,814

2018

66,679,122

2017

92,913,777

2016

18,610,221

2015

11,284,558

Total

232,017,492

 


[1] Australia Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form I, 3 January 2020; ITF Enhancing Human Security, “Annual Report 2019,” March 2020, p. 17; Canada Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, Form J, 11 June 2020; response to Monitor questionnaire by Natascha Hassan Johns, Head of Section, Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence, 26 June 2020; email from Frank Meeussen, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Export Control, European External Action Service, 30 August 2020; response to Monitor questionnaire by Anni Mäkeläinen, Desk Officer, Unit for Arms Control, Finland Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 July 2020; emails from Yves Marek, Ambassador, Secretary General, National Commission for the Elimination of Anti-Personnel Mines (CNEMA), 27 July and 10 August 2020; Germany Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, Form J, 16 March 2020; Italy Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form I, 25 June 2020; Japan Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, Form J, 30 March 2020; Netherlands Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, Form J, 2020; New Zealand Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, Form J, 2020; email from Ingrid Schøyen, Senior Advisor, Humanitarian Affairs, Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 June 2020; United Nations Mine Action Service, ‘‘Annual Report 2019,’’ 22 April 2020, pp. 32–33; email from Kajsa Aulin, Assistant Health Affairs and Disarmament, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations in Geneva, 24 September 2020; Switzerland Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form I, 28 April 2020.

[2] Average exchange rates for 2019: A$1=US$0.6952; C$1.3269=US$1; CHF0.9937=US$1; DKK6.6703=US$1; €1=US$1.1194; NOK8.8001=US$1; NZ$1=US$0.6591; SEK9.4604=US$1; and ¥109.02=US$1. US Federal Reserve, “List of Exchange Rates (Annual),” 2 January 2020.

[3] See previous Monitor reports. The total amount of assistance received in 2017 was revised to include previously not reported contributions from France and the United States.