Wed 12 Dec 2018

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Mines: The Lethal Legacy “ISIS” Left in Syria’s Daraa Governorate

A farm at the al-Ashari town, forsaken due to mines (Enab Baladi)

A farm at the al-Ashari town, forsaken due to mines (Enab Baladi)

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Following the Syrian regime and the factions’, which reconciled with it, control over the Yarmouk Basin last August, the mines planted by the “Islamic State” in the Basin area, western rural Daraa, became a nightmare haunting the civilians intending to return to their lands and houses.

Similar to the former areas that the “Islamic State” existed, containing the dangers posed by the mines became a burden to the concerned civil organizations and foundations, for putting an end to the increasing number of mines’ victims is never an easy task, because the missing awareness campaigns have inflated the danger, threatening children on particular, which resulted in many registered explosions, ending with the death and injury of dozens of them.

The war remnants, mines and vacuum bombs, in the city of Daraa caused the death of several civilians last October.

The “Daraa Martyrs Documentation Office” has documents the death of seven people, including three children.

The Office, concerned with the documentation of casualties in Daraa, pointed out to the death of a woman and her child on October 14, in addition to the injury of another child in an explosion of a vacuum bomb and a land mine at the city of Jasim and the town of Tasil.

Another child and a person were killed in the city of Da’el and the town of al-Shajarah in a mine explosion, a leftover of the battles, in the same period, in addition to the explosion of a mine in the town of Eastern Ghariyah, eastern rural Daraa, which led to the death of a child and the injury of other four people.

Mines Prevent Farmers from Tending Their Lands

The mines’ risk was not limited to human casualties as it developed to pose economic threats, promising a crisis in the foreseen future. The mines have forced the farm owners, at areas located at the confrontation lines, to forsake their lands fearing the mine “traps,” buried in their lands, turning them into rubble.

Abu Khalid from the town of Saham, northern rural Daraa, who refused to reveal his full name for security reasons, told Enab Baladi that, “I own a 20 dunum grape farm and a 25 dunum pomegranate farm. To the day, I could not cultivate them, fearing mines.”

“My major loss resulted from the drought of the grape harvest for three years, due to which the plants stunted are no more useful as a fruitful crop,” he added.

“The trees in my farm are all destroyed, but still none of the tractor owners dares to plough my land fearing that mines might exists there,” another farmer, from the town of Hayet, who also refused to reveal his name for security reasons, told Enab Baladi.

The risk violated the borders of the Yarmouk Basin, as it also covered the areas witnessing confrontations between the “Free Army” and the Assad’s forces, the latest effects of which was the explosion of an agricultural vehicle between the city of Da’el and the town of Ataman, northern rural Daraa, which killed two people from Da’el after they entered their lands on board of the vehicle early in November.

The young man Abdu Rahim al-Hariri, from the city of al-Harak, eastern rural Daraa, also died affected by his wound after the explosion of a land mine on November 27.

In addition to this, there are various cases of injuries which ended with amputation and deformities, but there are no official statistics about the whole number of these cases.

 “Restricted” Attempts at Demining

“We dismantled a massive number of mines, adopting the remote-controlled explosion method to avoid mistakes, for the first mistake is also the last,” a former leader of the “Free Army,” who prefers to stay anonymous for security reasons, told Enab Baladi.

“The Islamic State relied on camouflage and planted valves and traps in a reversed manner, in addition to many other means and tricks which threatened the demining teams with explosions every single moment,” he said, adding that “following the Islamic State’s loss, we did not receive maps to dismantle the randomly planted traps. We scan the land and the areas which the Islamic State feared to pass through to advance, but the complete removal of mines requires a trained team, accurate engineering equipment and a long time.”

The Syrian regime has also assigned the Engineering Battalion, under the Assad’s Forces, after it supplemented it with former opposition factions’ troops, who signed reconciliation deals, to dismantle mines. During the process, technical errors took place and killed seven of the regime’s personnel. This resulted of the technical tricks and the camouflage methods followed by the “Islamic State” at creating the “traps.” The same incident has also led to the death of several the reconciled troops, according to the former leader.

How to Avoid Mine Risks

There should be enough awareness about the dangers posed by missing up with mines, and awareness campaigns are a necessity, especially for children, a former employee at a humanitarian organization, who prefers to stay anonymous for security reasons, told Enab Baladi.

The employee called on the people of Daraa governorate “not to approach strange bodies and to deal with them with a cautious care in case a strange body or a mine existed, in addition to informing the concerned entities, while noting that no one goes near the place.”

He stressed the importance of “conducting awareness campaigns at schools to introduce students to the dangers of mines and strange bodies. Actor entities at towns, in cooperation with specialists, must put marks on signs that highlight the danger of the place and the presence of mines in the area, encircled with these signs.”

The mines are yet the major obsession of the areas which witnessed battles or used to be confrontation positions between the opposition factions and the Syrian regime on the one hand and the factions and the “Islamic State” on the other, especially following these area’s people return to their homes.

Due to the absent role of the international organizations at areas of conflict and the regime’s satisfaction with engineering units that conducted inaccurate scans of the target sites, mines will keep haunting the people.

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