AMMAN: In the north Hama countryside, young men are taking up a new profession of collecting, dismantling and selling unexploded regime ordnance to rebel militias.
In an area with few, if any, alternative sources of income, the recycling of unexploded missiles, mortars shells and barrel bombs offers an opportunity, despite the risks. The recycled TNT from a single barrel bomb can net up to $1,000.
“The work involves the collection of unexploded mortar shells, missiles, mines and cluster bombs to be sold to garages that dismantle the ordnance and prepare it for sale to rebel militias,” Fayyad a-Satouf, a citizen journalist told Syria Direct from the north Hama village of al-Lataminah. A-Satouf’s village is part of the last pocket of rebel resistance in the north Hama countryside, making it a prime target of regime and Russian aerial bombing.
“There are currently more than 100 people who have taken up the ordnance-salvaging profession in al-Lataminah,” says a-Satouf, adding that people in other towns and villages in north Hama and south Idlib are doing the same due to a lack of other options.
“I don’t deny the risks involved in this kind of work or my family’s fears… but it’s the only source of income in town,” Abdelraziq, a 30-year-old father of two from al-Lataminah told Syria Direct.
“Many of the farmers in the area can no longer tend to their fields because of the continuous bombing,” says a-Satouf. Farmers will alert removal teams to rockets or shells on their property “in exchange for payment,” said the activist, adding that a single rocket can earn a farmer $500.
The removal team digs out the rocket or mortar, which usually “penetrates the ground anywhere from five to 10 meters,” said a-Satouf.
At this point a second team, specialized in transporting the missile to the dismantling garage, takes over. The transport teams charge between $1,000-$3,000 “depending on the weight of the missile,” he added.
Last week, two of north Hama’s most experienced bomb dismantlers, one of whom is depicted on the left in the picture above, were killed when a rocket exploded during removal.
Despite the risk, salvaging ordnance does come with a reward, says Abdelraziq, referring to the years of regime, and now Russian, bombardments on his north Hama village.
“We are sending their merchandise right back at them.”