Hashim, a young man in his 20s from the city of Inkhel in northern Daraa, worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in the province until a landmine planted by the regime permanently handicapped him.
Hashim studied energy engineering at the University of Damascus but his studies were abruptly cut off in their third year when he was arrested by the regime. When he was released, he joined the staff at the Syrian Martyrs Hospital in the Daraa countryside after taking a course in first aid.
He chose to work in medicine because of the severe lack of doctors and first aid providers—most qualified caregivers had left Syria looking for a more secure place to live and work. At the start of the revolution, some Syrian doctors had refused to treat wounded for fear that they would be harassed or targeted by the regime.
In the battle of “Tel Um Houran” in Daraa between the regime and rebels, the rebels requested doctors and nurses to help treat their wounded, and Hashim was one of the first responders to answer the call.
Hashim recalled how he was injured that day in a conversation with the Syrian Voice.
“I was headed to help one of the injured from the rebels’ forward lines and I stepped on a landmine causing it to explode, which lead to the amputation of my right heel, so I was turned from a medic to someone calling for a medic.”
Hashim was treated at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the Jordanian city of Ramtha where he underwent several surgeries, including skin grafting and attaching an external fixation device to his leg. Despite his permanent injury, he has returned to his work at the Syrian Martyrs Hospital, albeit in the department of documentation as his injury has rendered him unable to do field work.
His story is not unique. The Syrian regime has deployed a host of different types of mines, including anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines, and naval mines. Some of these mines resemble the black basalt rocks that are common in the area, making it had for anyone without a special detector to recognize them in time.
Osama al-Hourani, a civilian from western Daraa told the Syrian Voice “while I was doing farm work in the field after the regime had retreated from one of its barracks located nearby, a landmine exploded, which led to my leg being amputated.”
The last recorded casualty caused by a mine in Daraa came in July, when a landmine exploded under a car, killing six civilians and injuring others, all from the same family. The incident occurred in the town of al-Maliha, in the province’s western countryside.
The armed opposition in the province has resorted to forming an engineering brigade tasked with mine and cluster bomb removal.
A member of one such team explained to Syria Direct “the workers in this field take training courses to learn how to defuse the mines, and they are currently being trained on how to deal with the cluster munitions that the regime has begun using recently.”
The use of mines is not limited to southern Syria, or to the regime. The brigade Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed, which was formed last May and has been accused of pledging allegiance to ISIS, has booby trapped the vehicles of other opposition fighters and activists working inDaraa, as well as planting landmines on the sides of the roads in areas under its. These landmines are meant to prevent rebel advances but have ended up killing and maiming many civilians.