Binish, Syria— Bassam al-Mustafa believes he has finally found a building for his family to call home after years of trying to escape war in syria.
House in Binish, Idlib province not finished, but still better than living in a tent displaced persons camp.
Instead, in a brutal tragedy, on September 5, Mustafa’s family had just begun to call home when an explosion killed his four children.
Al-Mustafa said the explosion, caused by unexploded ordnance left in the house, was an ongoing problem for Syrians, although the front lines between government and opposition forces in the northwest of the country remained relatively quiet .
“I think my son Ahmed was curious to see what was in a locked room on the second floor of the building,” Mustafa told Al Jazeera. “He opened the door and played with his siblings with unexploded ordnance and they were killed.”
Al-Mustafa said he did not understand why explosives were left in the house.
“How can explosives be placed in residential buildings? Or in urban areas at all?”
Civilians in Syria continue to die, especially in the opposition-held northwest, as a legacy of intense fighting in the region since the Syrian war began in 2011.
Landmines and other unexploded ordnance from thousands of shells, missiles and bombs from government forces and their forces russian ally Has fallen, littering opposition-controlled territory.
These ticking time bombs are a major threat to people’s lives.
In addition to the explosions that claimed the lives of Mustafa’s children, incidents earlier this month killed at least seven children in Idlib and Homs, according to the United Nations.
Operating in opposition-held territory, the team attempted to eliminate the dangers left by the fighting, but were unable to eliminate the numerous dangers that continue to take civilian lives.
In 2016, the Syrian Civil Defense white helmeta dedicated team was formed to safely remove unexploded ordnance.
In addition to dismantling munitions, the group’s activities include surveying hazardous areas and spreading awareness programs.
Mohammad Sami Mohamed of the Ministry of Civil Defence told Al Jazeera that the group now has six teams in northwest Syria dedicated to clearing unexploded ordnance. They have been able to remove the remnants of 21,000 cluster munitions.
The job wasn’t easy – four volunteers working with the group died while trying to defuse the bomb.
“Over the past year, the Syrian Civil Defence has documented the use of 60 different types of miscellaneous explosives to kill civilians, including 11 internationally banned cluster bombs,” Mohammed said. “From the beginning of this year to August, the Syrian Civil Defense Agency conducted more than 780 investigations in more than 260 areas contaminated with explosives, and cleared 524 items of explosives.”
the worst in the world
The sheer volume of unexploded ordnance (including mines) in Syria means that the country suffers the highest number of casualties each year from cluster munitions.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), an organization that aims to pressure the international community to ban cluster munitions and landmines, said (PDF format) These explosives have been used in almost all provinces of the country since 2012, although their use has decreased since 2017.
But the decline in the use of cluster munitions does not mean the danger has disappeared, as unexploded ordnance can still cause damage long after it has been fired and forgotten, just like landmines.
The number of landmine casualties in 2021 fell to 37 from 147 the year before, but remains the highest in the world, according to the ICBL.
Despite the best efforts of groups such as the Syrian Civil Defence, more casualties will occur.
Unexploded ordnance, whether landmines, cluster munitions or anything else, continues to litter people’s homes, farmlands and playgrounds in Syria – a threat that will remain for years and decades to come even after the war ends.