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Satellite images show totality of destruction in Syria

ec47633a7221cf1a390f6a70670072acA series of before-and-after satellite photographs lay bare the destruction caused by the Syrian civil war. The images, released as a part of a new Amnesty International report, show how a ballistic missile strike in the city of Aleppo decimates a series of buildings in a densely populated area of the city. The series of attacks killed more than 160 residents and wounded hundreds more, says Amnesty.

The largest city in Syria, Aleppo is one of the world’s oldest cities and is home to more than 2 million people. A minaret on the 11th century Umayyad Mosque, a UNESCO world heritage site, was destroyed by fighting in April.

Amnesty says the pictures, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), clearly explain why half of the people living in Aleppo have fled the war-torn city. The damage caused by heavy fighting in the city provides evidence for future legal action. Amnesty urged international leaders to take immediate action.

“How many more reports need to be published on Syria for the world to wake up and take action to stop the bloodshed of civilians?” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“The UN Security Council must refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and insist that the Syrian authorities allow the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as humanitarian and human rights organizations, full access to the country.”

Karm al-Jabal district intact on 9/9/12 and then destroyed by 12/15/12.
Karm al-Jabal district intact on 9/9/12 and then destroyed by 12/15/12.

Amnesty International warned a year ago that Aleppo was in danger of a military offensive by the Syrian military. Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager for Amnesty International USA, expressed his concerns that fighting would escalate and warned that Amnesty would use satellite images to document attacks.

“Turning Syria’s most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians. The atrocities in Syria are mounting already,” Koettl said at the time.

Reports from late 2012 and the new satellite images prove Amnesty’s prediction right. Hussein al-Saghir to Amnesty, a 15-year-old boy who lost 16 members of his extended family in a ballistic missile strike in the Jabal Badro district of Aleppo on February 18, 2013, describes the impact of the strike on his family.

“All my extended family lived here, we had 10 houses. My mother was badly injured and is now in hospital in Turkey. She does not know that her sons are dead,” said Hussein to Amnesty.

“My uncle, Mohamed Ali, lost 27 members of his family. He has lost his mind; he doesn’t know anything any more. He is in the countryside; everyone who survived has gone to stay with relatives or friends somewhere. Here, there is only rubble left.”

Aleppo 2

The images tell the story of a lopsided fight, says AAAS. Syrian security forces are bombarding rebel-held areas and civilians living in those areas are taking on the brunt of the offensive. Strikes were regular over the period observed. Strikes included residential, religious, commercial, and industrial facilities.

In addition to physical damage, the satellite images reveal the proliferation of roadblocks across the city and the use of heavy artillery, such as tanks, by Syrian troops. Amnesty blames the lack of action by the international community for the ongoing fighting. He says it should be a call to action.

“The illegal conduct in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria is a direct consequence of the international community’s paralysis and delay in effectively condemning these crimes, and referring the situation to the world’s criminal court of last resort,” said Koettl.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]