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New Images Show Destruction In Syrian City Of Aleppo

Satellite images released Wednesday by Amnesty International show widespread devastation that is "severely lopsided" in opposition-controlled parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo. The group says the images highlight human rights violations against Aleppo's civilian population amid the country's civil war.

The release of the images comes exactly a year after the group released satellite photos of Aleppo and the surrounding area. At the time, intense battles for the city were underway. Today, Aleppo is divided, with rebels and government forces both controlling roughly half of the city.

Amnesty warned last year of the risk to civilians in Aleppo.

"The risk cited one year ago regarding the devastating consequences of turning what was Syria's most populous city into a battlefield has become reality," Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser, says in a statement.

"Aleppo has been utterly devastated, many of its residents fleeing the bombardments in huge numbers and many others trapped in a city under fire and under siege in desperate humanitarian conditions," Rovera adds.

The analysis of the images was produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in collaboration with Amnesty's Science for Human Rights program.

Scott Edwards, managing director of crisis prevention and response at Amnesty International, says the photographs could serve as "evidence for a future justice mechanism."

He says the organization is doing the same thing in other Syrian cities.

"Syria is one very large crime scene," he tells us.

Amnesty has previously used satellite imagery to document war crimes in Darfur, during the Georgia-Russia conflict, and in Sudan's Blue Nile state.

But, Edwards says, "if I'm being honest, the strongest parallels for imagery from Aleppo are natural disasters. There's just such widespread devastation."

Amnesty says the "indiscriminate air bombardment" by government forces has reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble and killed and maimed civilians. Here's what the group says about the images in the slider photo above:

"For example, comparative satellite images of neighborhoods devastated by three ballistic missile strikes launched by Syrian government forces between February 18 and 22, 2013, provide alarming evidence of the human toll of escalating tactics deployed by parties to the conflict. These three strikes alone killed more than 160 residents and injured hundreds, in addition to destroying scores of homes, leaving hundreds homeless."

The Amnesty report also detailed damage within the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO world heritage site. In April, we wrote about the destruction of the 11th century Umayyad Mosque, which collapsed amid fighting between rebels and government troops.

Before the war, Aleppo was Syria's industrial and financial hub, but as the city was dragged into the fighting, many in its business community fled. NPR's Deborah Amos reported on this exodus — and what it means for Syria's economy:

"Official data from the Turkish banking agency shows that Syrians have deposited almost $4 billion in Turkish banks — some of the cash transferred across the border on the backs of mules, packed by Syrians in a hurry to get money out. As the war has intensified, more than 400 factories have shut down."

NPR's Kelly McEvers and Rima Marrouch have also reported on the fighting in the city, Syria's largest.

The fighting between troops loyal to President Bashar Assad and the opposition has sparked a massive refugee crisis in neighboring countries. Some refugees are heading home to rebel-held areas, as Deb reported last month, but their sheer numbers threatens to overwhelm countries like Jordan, which is now home to an estimated half-million.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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