+   *    +     +     
About Us 
The Issues 
Our Research Products 
Order Publications 
Press Room 
Resources for Monitor Researchers 
Email Notification Receive notifications when this Country Profile is updated.


Send us your feedback on this profile

Send the Monitor your feedback by filling out this form. Responses will be channeled to editors, but will not be available online. Click if you would like to send an attachment. If you are using webmail, send attachments to .


Last Updated: 28 November 2013

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

The Syrian Arab Republic is contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster munition remnants, a legacy of Arab-Israeli wars since 1948 and the ongoing armed conflict. The fighting has involved extensive use of indiscriminate, area-wide weapons, which cause both immediate and long-term damage as they result in high levels of contamination of ERW.[1] The Syrian conflict has been marked by a severe lack of access to affected populations including mine action activities.


A 10-year-old refugee in Lebanon told UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow that during a six hour walk in the dark to Lebanon he kept his eyes on the ground to avoid landmines. “They told me: don’t step on the mines—it has a red button on it, and I saw a couple of them.”[2]

Since 2011 there have been reports of mine use on the internet, social media, and from independent research by Human Rights Watch (HRW). In 2011 and 2012, Syrian government forces used antipersonnel landmines, while non-state armed groups used improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and claimed they would re-use mines recovered from Syrian positions. On 1 November 2011, a Syrian official told media, “Syria has undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines.”[3] The ICBL expressed concern at Syria’s “disregard” of the safety of civilians seeking to cross the border to flee the violence in Syria.[4] The Syrian government has stated that it views antipersonnel mines as necessary weapons for national defense.[5]

During 2012 and 2013, there were reports of Syrian rebels manufacturing and using IEDs, primarily roadside bombs as well as Molotov cocktails and remotely-detonated devices.[6] More information has emerged about rebel manufacture and use of victim-activated IEDs, which are prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty’s definition of an antipersonnel mine. In July 2013, Wired published a profile on a rebel arms manufacturer in Aleppo, including one who showed a reporter victim-operated IEDs that he was working on. The metallic devices looked like “old-fashioned fire-alarm bells.”[7]

In August 2012, a Syrian rebel told the media that they intended to re-use government antipersonnel mines that have been removed from the ground.[8] The ICBL called on the Free Syrian Army and all forces involved in the conflict in Syria to forbid their combatants from using landmines.[9]

In March 2012, HRW documented new mine use on the Turkish border near Hasanieih (PMN-2), Derwand, Jiftlek, Kherbet al-Joz toward Alzouf and al-Sofan, Armana, Bkafla, Hatya, Darkosh, Salqin, and Azmeirin.[10] New landmine use has also been reported on the Lebanese border in al-Buni,[11] Tel Kalakh,[12] Kneissi,[13] and Heet (PMN-2 and TMN-46 mines).[14] Civilian casualties have been recorded from this mine use.

Other explosive remnants of war

Heavy fighting has been reported in all 14 governates.[15] In July 2013, the UN Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS) recorded 3,414 incidents of armed clashes and use of heavy weapons such as rockets, cluster munitions, and IEDs.[16] Internally Displaced People and refugees attempting to resettle back in their homes are at risk of being killed or injured by ERW obscured by rubble or left over from previous fighting.[17]

Cluster munition remnants

Independent reports indicate that Syria is contaminated with cluster munition remnants. Amnesty International has reported that cluster bombs have killed or wounded tens of thousands of civilians in villages and towns across the country.[18]

While the full extent of contamination is unknown and will remain unknown indefinitely, several locations in Syria have been identified as areas where cluster munitions have been used. As of April 2013, they include Abu Kamal on the Syrian side of the Syria/Iraq border.[19] Other locations include Deir Jamal near Aleppo and Talbiseh near Homs. According to HRW, al-Za`faraneh, near Rastan, as well as Abil, near Homs, Binnish (Idlib), Deir al-Assafeer, and Douma, near Damascus, and the governorates of Aleppo, Idlib, Deir al-Zor, and Latakia have been repeatedly attacked with cluster munitions.[20]

The Golan Heights is also contaminated with unexploded ordnance, including unexploded submunitions. The precise extent of the problem is not known.

Mine Action Program

There is no formal mine action program in Syria, no national mine action authority, and no mine action center.

In March 2012, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) established an office in Damascus, initially as part of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). An UNMAS team in Amman, Jordan provided support.[21]

In 2012, Sweden funded the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to provide three technical experts to support emergency operations planning and training with UNMAS.[22]


No formal clearance is being conducted in Syria. A video posted online by HRW in March 2013 reported that five people, local denizens, working as a team had removed 300 antipersonnel mines near the border with Lebanon.[23]

Risk education

After UNSMIS was suspended in June 2012 because of an increase in the fighting,[24] UNMAS stayed in Damascus as a member of the Syrian Humanitarian Action Response Plan (SHARP) where a three-person team provided assessments, technical advice on ERW issues, and risk education to UN staff and the Syrian Red Crescent.[25] UNMAS also coordinates regional risk education targeted at humanitarian aid workers, internally displaced persons, and children in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq where UNHCR has registered over two million refugees. It planned to target 500,000 people in 2013.[26] Handicap International (HI), Spirit of Soccer, and Mines Advisory Group (MAG) provide risk education to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.[27] In October 2013, UNICEF, UNMAS, and MAG began showing a risk education video in refugee camps in Iraq for Syrian refugees. It is planned to broadcast the one-minute video on media outlets in the region.[28]

However, the growing intensity of the fighting and restricted movement forced UNMAS to cancel plans in June 2013 for a survey to establish a database of hazardous areas.[29]

UNMAS also manages a database of Syria conflict data in partnership with UNDSS and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to inform the current humanitarian response and enable pre-planning and preparedness for ERW survey and clearance at the appropriate time.[30]


[1] Global Protection Cluster, “Syria Situation Update,” 11 February 2013; and UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), “Syria,” August 2013.

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

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

[5] 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, for example, statement of Syria, Seminar on Military and Humanitarian Issues Surrounding the Mine Ban Treaty, Amman, 19–21 April 2004.

[6]IED bombs new Syrian rebel strategy,” BBC, 23 June 2012; CJ Chivers, “Syrian Rebels Hone Bomb Skills to Even the Odds,” The New York Times, 18 July 2012; Luke Harding and Ian Black, “Syria’s rebels add explosives expertise to guerrilla tactics,” The Guardian, 1 August 2012; CJ Chivers, “Syria’s Dark Horses, With Lathes: Makeshift Arms Production in Aleppo Governorate, Part I,” The New York Times At War blog, 19 September 2012.

[7] Matthieu Aikins, “Makers of war,” Wired, July 2013.

[8] In an interview, an unidentified Syrian rebel stated, “We defuse the mines planted by the Assad army and we will plant these mines for his soldiers.” Jane Ferguson, “Syria rebels to reuse regime landmines,” Al Jazeera, 1 August 2012.

[9] ICBL press release, “Syrian opposition forces urged not to use landmines,” Geneva, 2 August 2012.

[12] See testimony of 15-year-old boy from Tal Kalakh who lost his right leg to a landmine, “Syria: Army Planting Banned Landmines: Witnesses Describe Troops Placing Mines Near Turkey, Lebanon Borders,” HRW, 13 March 2012.

[14] On 9 March 2012, The Washington Post published a photo of dirt-covered PMN-2 antipersonnel mines and TMN-46 antivehicle mines that it reported were planted by the Syrian Army on the outskirts of the Syrian village of Heet.

[15] Email from Gustavo Laurie, Coordinator, Global Protection Cluster, UNMAS, 13 March 2013.

[16] UNMAS, “Syria,” August 2013. The UNDSS provides resources such as security clearance requests, travel notification processing, and travel advisories for staff members of UN departments, agencies, funds, and programs. Access to the UNDSS website is restricted to UN personnel only.

[17] Global Protection Cluster, “Syria Situation Update,” 11 February 2013.

[19] Brown Moses blog, 4 June 2013.

[20] HRW, “Syria: Mounting Casualties from Cluster Munitions,” 16 March 2013; and HRW, “Death from the Skies,” 10 April 2013.

[21] Email from Gustavo Laurie, UNMAS, 13 March 2013.

[22]MSB operations as a result of the conflict in Syria,” MSB International Operations Magazine, June 2013, p. 11.

[23] HRW, “Syria: Army Planting Banned Landmines,” 14 March 2012.

[25] Letter from UNMAS to H.E. Gary Quinlan, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN, New York, 2 January 2013.

[28] MAG, “Risk Education video for Syrian refugees,” 2 October 2013.

[29] Revised Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) January - December 2013, 3 June 2013; and “WITHDRAWN - Explosive Remnants Survey and Coordination,” UNMAS, 6 June 2013, p. 122.

[30] UNMAS, “Syria,” August 2013.