Scores of civilians killed by ISIS explosives in Hasakah

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Displaced families from Hasakah arrive to Qamishli city, northeastern Syria. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Hasakah – At least three civilians lost their lives and several others were seriously injured on Tuesday when a landmine exploded in a public square. The landmine was one of thousands which were laid by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in Hasakah Governorate.

“A landmine that had been planted by ISIS exploded in Hafayer town, south of Hasakah, causing the death of three people from one family,” human rights activist Wael al-Muhssin told ARA News.

The explosion also injured four people; a 13-year-old boy, two women and a man. An eyewitness told ARA News that the “wounded were transferred to the Aziziya Hospital in Hasakah for treatment.”

Hafayer was liberated by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) during their drive south, last February. While the jihadists are gone, their traps continue to pose a daily threat to civilians.

In most countries, the manufacture and use of landmines and similar indiscriminate weapons is illegal under the provisions of the UN’s Ottawa Treaty. In June 2014, Northern Syria – Rojava (NSR) banned the use of antipersonnel landmines.

Similar detonations have been reported in Kobane and Manbij, resulting in dozens of civilian fatalities. Abdulrahman Hemo, the head of the Kobane reconstruction board, told ARA News that “50% of the civilian death toll in Kobane has been caused by explosives laid in the ground.”

Kurdish Volunteers Dismantle Hundreds of Explosives

The Islamic State has been on the back foot for months, losing hundreds of villages and towns in northern Syria. As the jihadists withdraw they are planting landmines, near communities and along public roads.

Unmarked explosive devices have killed dozens of people in Hasakah Governorate, especially in the countryside where civilians are often unaware of the danger. The landmines also hamper resettlement efforts and preclude crop cultivation.

Responding to the challenge, Northern Syria – Rojava established the Roj Organization to demine Hasakah Governorate. The organization was established five months ago, with a modest budget and a staff of Kurdish volunteers. Their work is exceptionally dangerous.

Muhammad al-Himas, a member of the Roj Organization, told ARA News that his colleagues have been “encountering mounting difficulties while trying to dismantle the explosives.”

“Operating with such modest equipment affects the progress of our work,” al-Himas said. “We haven’t received any support from the international community.”

The Roj Organization has recently started working near the town of al-Hawl. The demining volunteers want to clear the Iraqi-Syrian border so refugees can safely cross into NSR territory. Their work has taken on added urgency, as thousands of people have fled the war-torn city of Mosul.

“We came to the al-Hawl to dismantle the landmines [and thereby] make a secure passage available for Iraqi refugees,” Malik Ahmed, another Roj Organization volunteer, told ARA News. “Those people need a safe passage, and we are doing our best to assist them.”

Reporting by: Ahmed Shiwesh and Adnan Hassan | Source: ARA News

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