‘Tragic accidents’ as land mines lurk in Idlib’s olive fields


October 28, 2015

On Sunday, a land mine exploded in the Idlib countryside, killing four civilians who were harvesting olives.

A second unexploded regime land mine in northern Idlib killed a 14-year-old boy on Tuesday, reported the pro-opposition Umayya Media Center.

Such “tragic incidents” as these are commonplace since rebels took control of most of Idlib province earlier this year, Mohammad Salloum, a resident of Kafr Nubl in the southern Idlib countryside, tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou, adding that regime forces had previously laid the mines to protect checkpoints and military positions.

“After the liberation of these sites, a large portion of the mines were removed,” says Sallmoun, but with no organized de-mining teams, those buried in the countryside are rarely found by the civil defense until one is stumbled upon.

Q: Four people were killed earlier this week during the olive harvest as a result of a land mine explosion. Have there been similar incidents that have occurred in the countryside of Idlib?

Incidents such as these have been recurring because some farmlands are located close to regime checkpoints and military sites where land mines were planted to protect the areas from rebel military operations.

After the liberation of these sites, a large portion of the mines were removed, but some mines still remain and from time to time they cause tragic accidents.

Q: Do you believe that farmlands located close to military areas are not yet safe to use and that this will affect farmers’ ability to work the land?

It is not possible for farmers to leave their lands regardless of how great the danger may be, as there is a deeply rooted relationship between the people of Idlib and the olive trees. The people are well aware of the danger they face, but for them it is a necessary evil they must deal with. Unfortunately, the regime forces planted land mines randomly without maps of their locations. They do not care about the fate of civilians and the possible disasters that may occur because of the mines.

Q: There is a picture circulating of cluster bombs dropped by Russian forces on the Idlib countryside. How do civilians deal with this?

Cluster bombs have been used for a long time by regime warplanes. As a family, we have lost two female relatives who were 13 and nine years old because of a cluster bomb in Marat a-Numan that exploded when one of the girls was playing with it.

Russian planes use cluster bombs that are more advanced and lethal than the Syrian regime. I remember seeing a picture of one found in the Aleppo countryside. Most often civil defense and local military organizations deal with this type of ammunition as they comb through recently liberated military cities [in search of cluster bombs].

Q: In the liberated Idlib countryside, is there a team that is responsible for de-mining the area? If so, do they have sufficient capacity to carry out their operations?

No, there isn’t a comprehensive de-mining operation. Only after a strange object is found or following the liberation of a military zone will a civil defense team remove or detonate mines.

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