Last updated: 13 July 2017

Casualties Overview

All known mine/ERW casualties by end 2016

2,677 mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) and unexploded cluster submunitions casualties (mine/ERW)  (1,214 killed; 1,449 injured; 14 unknown)

Mine/ERW casualties occurring in 2016

435 (2015: 924)

2016 mine/ERW casualties by survival outcome

302 killed; 131 injured; 2 unknown survival outcomes (2015: 294 killed; 630 injured)

2016 mine/ERW casualties by device type

217 unspecified mine types; 155 improvised mines; 33 antivehicle mines; 23 unexploded submunitions; 2 ERW; 5 undifferentiated mines/ERW

Cluster munition casualties since 2012

At least 3,075 (860 in 2016)

Including casualties of both direct use (which are not included in other mine/ERW casualty totals) and unexploded submunitions, which are included (see below for more details on these cluster munition casualties, including those occurring during direct use.)


The Monitor identified 435 mine/ERW casualties in the Syrian Arabic Republic (not including the occupied Golan Heights) from multiple sources for 2016. However, since the conflict began in 2011, annual recorded totals of mine/ERW casualties are thought to be an undercount. It is expected that the actual number of casualties in Syria in 2016, as in past years, was significantly higher than recorded.

Due to the various actors’ differing reasons for the recording of casualty data, some datasets only include fatalities, while others only record people who were injured. Consequently, the ratio of killed to injured in 2016 cannot be considered indicative of the actual totals of survival outcomes as among the 435 recorded casualties, only 128 injured people were recorded compared to 302 people killed (for two casualties it was not reported if they survived). In contrast, 2015 was the first time since the beginning of the conflict a substantial dataset on persons injured by mines/ERW in Syria was available from Handicap International (HI) for that year.[1]

The 86 survivors of mines and ERW reported by HI for 2016 was a significant decrease from the 607 injured mine/ERW casualties recorded by HI for 2015.[2] The vast majority of the 2015 HI data on persons injured was gathered through a large-scale survey that took place between June 2013 and December 2015.[3] Although this specific survey was completed, HI continued to collect data on mine/ERW survivors from Syria among its beneficiaries in 2016, although significantly fewer were recorded than for 2015.[4]

The 435 mine/ERW casualties recorded in 2016 represented a decrease from the 990 mines/ERW casualties recorded in 2015. However, as noted above, this is not necessarily representative of a trend, due to the limitations in data collection more broadly, and in particular the completion of the HI survey among displaced persons and refugees in December 2015. As was the case in 2014, the data available for 2016 was mostly for fatalities, making it certain that persons injured were massively unreported. Persons injured were also severely underreported in 2013 and 2012. Since the conflict began in 2011, until 2015, the numbers of casualties identified annually in Syria increased significantly from previous years. In 2010, no casualties were identified in Syria, and in 2009, a single antivehicle mine casualty was reported.[5]

Of the recorded casualties in 2016, 247 were male, 51 were female and 137 were of unknown gender. Adults made up 292 of the total (189 men, 38 women, 65 of unknown sex), while 112 were children (56 boys, 13 girls, and 43 of unknown age group), and 31 were of unknown age group and gender. This was a similar ratio of male to female as in 2015. Of the casualties of known age group, the percentage of children had risen from 13% in 2015 to 28% in 2016. The civil status of the majority (312) of casualties was not known, 111 were identified as civilians, and 12 as military/combatants.

There is no comprehensive, country-wide mine/ERW casualty data collection mechanism in place and the ongoing conflict hampers the recording of casualties by the various actors that capture such information. Nevertheless, several organizations have maintained efforts to record casualties of conflict, including those resulting from mines/ERW. The Monitor has extracted, analyzed, and compiled relevant mine/ERW casualty information for 2016 in a unified dataset using publicly available data from the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), the Syrian Civil Defence, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), and the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), specific data from HI, as well as data from anonymous sources.[6] Notably, most data reported by these diverse actors for 2016 was unique, as Monitor analysis showed little duplication of mine/ERW casualties reported.

Reporting indicated that the number of casualties in 2016 was likely significantly higher than could be recorded. In addition to the casualties identified for inclusion in the annual total by the Monitor, there are reports of hundreds of mine/ERW casualties for which insufficient detail was available to be included in the annual casualty total. For example, an MSF report provides anecdotal accounts from medical staff of numerous casualties from mines/ERW in 2015 and 2016. MSF reported that in the summer of 2016—over the course of just four weeks—in the Manbij area of Aleppo governorate, hospital staff received more than 190 people injured by blasts from explosive devices.[7] A total of 270 patients with injuries related to mine/ERW blasts from Manbij were received in hospitals in Kobane in the three-month period from 16 June to 16 Sept 2016.[8]

Similarly, HRW noted that there were hundreds of civilian casualties from improvised mines (victim-activated IEDs), including dozens of children, in Manbij, Aleppo governorate, according to the accounts of hospital staff interviewed. The head of a hospital in Kobane reported that 840 injured people from Manbij were treated in July and August, and he estimated that 80% of the injures were from IEDs.[9] Survivors and their families reported that “civilians returning to their homes after the fighting had been injured or killed by explosive devices placed in doorways and windows, under mattresses and piles of shoes, in refrigerators and bags of clothes, and in television sets and kitchen sink taps.”[10] Due to a lack of detail and disaggregation between improvised mines and command-detonated IEDs—which are excluded from Monitor reporting—these casualties could not be included in the total for 2016.

Most of the mine/ERW casualties identified by the Monitor were caused by mines of unspecified type (216), followed by improvised mines—also called victim-activated IEDs (155)—, unexploded submunitions (23), antivehicle mines (33), other ERW (two), and undifferentiated mines/ERW (three).

Casualties recorded by the Monitor resulted from mine/ERW incidents in 11 governorates: the majority (42%, or 182) were in Aleppo, and the others were in Daara, Damascus suburbs, Deir Ezzor, Hama, Hasakeh, Homs, Idlib, Madaya, and Raqqa. Correspondingly, a mine action rapid assessment conducted by UNMAS in November 2016, and covering practically the entire territory of Syria, found that a total of 397 communities in 12 governorates reported mine/ERW casualties, the majority also being in Aleppo. The survey did not aim to capture the total number of casualties from explosive hazards, but to ask whether the respondents knew of casualties occurring in their area. The governorates with the highest number of casualties were Aleppo, Raqqa, and Idleb.[11]

Siege-type minefields continued to cause civilians casualties into 2016, as had been the case in 2015. In April, three boys died of landmine-inflicted injures in Manbij. The siege minefields also prevented access to emergency medical assistance for those people injured.[12] There are also reports of at least eight other casualties that occurred while civilians tried to flee from the non-state armed group Islamic State (IS) in Manbij during July and August 2016.[13]

The total number of mine/ERW casualties identified by the Monitor in Syria between 1967 and the end of 2016 was at least 2,677 casualties (1,214 killed; 1,449 injured; 14 unknown). The total includes 660 mine casualties (220 killed; 440 injured) as of May 2011,[14] and 2,017 mine/ERW casualties between June 2011 and the end of 2016 (994 killed; 1,009 injured; and 14 unknown survival outcome).[15]

Due to the absence of a national casualty data collection mechanism, it is probable that there were also unrecorded casualties before the beginning of internal armed conflict in 2011.

Cluster munition casualties

The Monitor identified at least 860 cluster munition casualties in 2016 (221 killed; 639 injured). As in previous years, the overwhelming majority of recorded casualties (837) were caused by cluster munition attacks, while 23 casualties caused by unexploded submunitions were recorded. Data on cluster munition casualties was compiled from the following sources: the Syrian Civil Defence, the SNHR, the VDC, and HRW.[16]

As with mines and other ERW, due to the challenges of collecting data, including the security situation and ongoing conflict, the number of cluster munition casualties caused by both attacks and unexploded submunitions is likely to be underreported. It is possible that some persons recorded as injured by other mine and remnant types were actually unexploded submunition casualties. In addition, a further 83 casualties occurred when cluster munitions were used with other weapons. In these cases, it was not possible to determine how many casualties were due to cluster munitions and how many to other weapons.[17] Therefore, the Monitor has not included these casualties in the annual cluster munition casualty total.

The 860 cluster munition casualties in 2016 were recorded in seven governorates: Aleppo, Daara, Damascus suburbs, Deir Ezzor, Hama, Homs, and Idlib. For 62% of the 2016 cluster munition casualties the age was not recorded.

Where information was available, 214 were adults (98 men, 57 women, 59 unknown) and 117 were children (28 boys, 14 girls, and 75 unknown).  For 75% of the casualties, the gender was not recorded. Of those for whom it -was recorded, 67% (143, which includes 17 casualties of unknown age) were male, and 33% (71) were female.  The majority (595 or 99% where the civil status was known), were reported to be civilian, only six were reported to be military, while 259 were of unknown civil status. The 860 cluster munition casualties recorded in 2016 is a significant increase on the 248 cluster munition casualties recorded in 2015 (231 from strikes).[18] In 2014, 383 casualties were recorded (329 from strikes); in 2013, 1,001; and in 2012, 583 (see previous Monitor casualty reports for further details).

Prior to new use of cluster munitions in 2012, at least five casualties from unexploded cluster submunitions had been recorded in Syria, including four child casualties in 2007.[19]

[1] See, HI factsheet, “Syria: A mutilated future,” Brussels, 20 June 2016, pp. 1–2; and HI, “New Report: Syrians Maimed and Traumatized by Explosive Weapons,” 20 June 2016.

[2] This was an increase from the 551 injured casualties reported by HI for 2015 in 2016, with the addition of data recorded from survivors by HI in 2016.

[3] Data on injured persons was collected by HI and partners through interviews with displaced people and refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon between June 2013 and December 2015. The reporting is based on interviews with 68,049 people assessed by HI teams, of which 25,097 were injured: 14,471 in Syria, 7,823 in Jordan, and 2,803 in Lebanon. See, HI factsheet, “Syria: A mutilated future,” Brussels, 20 June 2016, pp. 1–2; and HI, “New Report: Syrians Maimed and Traumatized by Explosive Weapons,” 20 June 2016.

[4] Casualty data from Regional Emergency Response Office on the Syrian Crisis, HI, 11 May 2017.

[5] Email from Dr. Hosam Doughouz, Health Officer, Quneitra Health Directorate, 12 May 2010.

[6] See VDC website; SNHR, “Civilians died in ISIS landmine explosion Al Sukariya village in Aleppo governorate, December 3,” undated; MayDay Rescue, “White Helmets [Syrian Civil Defence] Daily Responses Report,” for the period October 2016 through December 2016; HRW, “Syria: Improvised Mines Kill, Injure Hundreds in Manbij,” 26 October, 2016; Medicins San Frontieres, “Set to explode: Impact of mines, booby traps and explosive remnants of war on civilians in northern Syria,” April 2017; casualty data from Regional Emergency Response Office on the Syrian Crisis, HI, 11 May 2017; and GICHD, “Anti-Vehicle Mine (AVM) Incidents map,” 2017.

[7] Medicins San Frontieres, “Set to explode: Impact of mines, booby traps and explosive remnants of war on civilians in northern Syria,” April 2017, p. 5.

[8] “Ibid., p. 19, and see graph “Patients with injuries related to ERW blasts from Manbij.”

[9] In October 2016, HRW collected the names of 69 civilians, including 19 children, killed by improvised mines. These casualties were included in the annual total for 2016. The total is likely to be much higher due to the constraints in data collection. HRW, “Syria: Improvised Mines Kill, Injure Hundreds in Manbij,” 26 October 2016.

[11] “Rapid Assessment on Mine Action,” UNMAS/NPM, November 2016, pp. 5, 11, and 12. Number of communities reporting contamination: Al Hasaken, 12; Aleppo, 177; Al Raqqa, 45; As Sweido, 2; Damascus, 5; Dor’a, 32; Deir ez Zor, 2; Hama, 33; Homs, 20; Idleb, 43; Lattakia, 0; Quneitra, 5; Rural Damascus, 21; and Tartous, 0.

[12] Samuel Oakford and Avi Asher-Schapiro, “Pawns in Syria’s Ceasefire, Three Boys Die in Landmine Explosion,” Vice News, 1 April 2016.

[13] HRW identified four people who were killed, and four who were injured, as they attempted to flee. HRW, “Syria: Improvised Mines Kill, Injure Hundreds in Manbij,” 26 October 2016.

[14]Citizen Injured from Israel Left-over Mine Explosion in Quneitra,” SANA (Quneitra), 6 May 2011. In the article, Omar al-Heibi, Head of the Board of the General Association for Rehabilitation of Mine-caused Injuries, states that there have been a total of 660 mine casualties (220 killed; 440 injured) as of May 2011, including a man injured in 2011.

[15] Monitor analysis of data from various sources from 2011–2016.

[16] SNHR, “Russian Forces are worse than the Syrian Regime in terms of cluster munition use,” 23 March 2017; HRW, “Russia/Syria: Widespread New Cluster Munition Use,” 28 July 2016; HRW, “Syria: Improvised Mines Kill, Injure Hundreds in Manbij,” 26 October 2016; data from VDC website; and MayDay Rescue, “White Helmets [Syrian Civil Defence] Daily Responses Report,” for the period October 2016 through December 2016.

[17] On 11 July 2016 three aircraft carried out multiple attacks near Termanin, a village in Idlib governorate, killing at least 10 people and injuring more than 30, all civilians. See, HRW, “Russia/Syria: Widespread New Cluster Munition Use,” July 28 2016. The Syrian Civil Defence reported four incidents in 2016 where cluster munitions were used along with other weapons, resulting in 43 casualties.

[18] An additional 54 fatalities reported by the VDC were attributed to the use of cluster munitions alongside other weapons, including thermobaric weapons. These casualties were not counted in the Monitor total of cluster munition casualties for 2015 because they did not exclusively identify the cause of fatality as cluster munitions.

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