Traditionally, landmines have been used in military science as a defensive strategy, aimed at slowing the enemy down or denying armed forces passage through certain terrain. These explosive devices are often concealed or under the ground and are designed to destroy targets that cross them. They can be classified in two main groups; anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines, aimed at persons and tanks respectively, as their names suggest. Sadly however, minefields tend to last longer than the conflicts they are used in, becoming remnants of war, injuring and killing people for many years after the conflict has ended and rendering areas unusable for decades.
This has been the case in the Occupied Syrian Golan. More than 9000 acres – the equivalent of over 6000 football pitches – are suspected to be mined in the Occupied Syrian Golan, distributed over around 2000 minefields that vary greatly in size.
From the beginning of its occupation of the Syrian Golan, Israel made substantial efforts to fortify the territory against attacks – this has included the creation of minefields throughout the Occupied Syrian Golan. These minefields have remained in place and are concentrated in the area around the 1973 ceasefire line that was established following the 1973 Arab – Israeli War. New anti-personnel mines have been laid by the Israeli military as recently as 2011. Furthermore, the Occupied Syrian Golan also contains the remnants of minefields laid by Syrian and French forces during their control over the territory, as well as mines from the period of the British Mandate, laid by Jordan and Egypt.
Minefields are located all over the Occupied Syrian Golan and are even found within and around occupied Syrian villages. Since 1967, it is estimated that at least 66 Syrians have been victims of landmines in the Occupied Syrian Golan. Among these, 16 died, half of whom were children. Israeli civilians, Israeli soldiers and tourists have also been victims of landmines, however, accurate figures on casualties are difficult to obtain.
For a preliminary background on the use of landmines in the Occupied Syrian Golan, please see Al-Marsad’s publication – ‘Landmines in the Occupied Golan: Israel’s obligations under International human Rights and Humanitarian Law’, available below.
- Landmines in the Occupied Golan: Israel’s obligations under International human Rights and Humanitarian Law