Five million Syrians at high risk of explosive weapons: Study
A rebel fighter uses a mine detector to check while cleaning the fields from mines and improvised explosives left over from by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad on the outskirts of Idlib city, Syria, after rebel fighters took control of the area May 7, 2015.
About 5.1 million Syrians are living in areas at high risk from explosive weapons, some of which fail to detonate and so will pose a deadly threat for years to come, aid group Handicap International said.
The global charity examined 78,000 violent incidents in Syria's war between December 2012 and March 2015 and found that more than 80 percent involved highly destructive weapons like rockets, mortars and bombs, rather than light arms.
"Syria will inherit the deadly legacy of explosive weapons for years," said Anne Garella, Regional Coordinator of Handicap International.
The conflict is in its fifth year, having killed more than 220,000 people, according to a U.N. estimate. More than 1.5 million people have been injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization that monitors the war.
Diplomatic efforts aimed at finding a political solution have gone nowhere.
A range of insurgent groups have been battling the Syrian military and allied fighters. U.S.-led air forces have been bombing ultra hardline Islamic State militants since last summer.
The Handicap International study found that three-quarters of the incidents it recorded took place in populated areas like larger
towns and cities.
"This suggests that belligerents have no intention of effectively distinguishing between civilians and combatants -- which constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law," said the group, which provides aid to disabled people in conflict and disaster zones.
The heavily-populated western provinces of Aleppo, Deraa, Homs, Idlib and Rural Damascus were the most affected, the study found. The research was based news reports, social media and data from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; editing by Andrew Roche)