Before-and-after pictures show devastation in Syria's Aleppo
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The sharp outlines of houses are reduced to a blur of rubble in "before-and-after" satellite images of Aleppo published on Wednesday that show how civilians have borne the brunt of Syria's civil war.
Amnesty International, which posted the photographs of the northern city on its website, says they show a campaign of indiscriminate air bombardment by government forces, razing entire areas and killing civilians.
"As the intensity of aerial bombardments and other attacks has continued to increase, the number of displaced Syrians has also risen several times," said Amnesty, which compiled the pictures in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The pictures show the impact of ballistic missiles fired by government forces in February on three neighbourhoods in Aleppo.
Bird's-eye-view photos taken before the attack show densely built-up districts of apartment blocks. Images of the same view after the attack show an area of destruction several streets wide where dozens of buildings have collapsed.
The three strikes killed more than 160 residents and wounded hundreds, Amnesty said.
"Over the study period, the AAAS analysis identified a near constant pace of destruction to Aleppo's infrastructure, including residential, religious, commercial, and industrial facilities," Amnesty said.
(Click on this link to see the images of ballistic missile strikes in Aleppo in February 2013: here)
The images also show widespread damage to Aleppo's old city, a UNESCO world heritage site, including the destruction of the minaret of the Great Mosque and damage to the main Souq.
Both sides in the 28-month-old war have ignored international law by fighting in Aleppo's historic sites.
More than 100,000 people have died in Syria's civil war and millions have been displaced.
U.N. investigators say Assad's forces have carried out war crimes including unlawful killing, torture, sexual violence, indiscriminate attacks and pillaging in what appears to be a state-directed policy. They say rebels have also committed war crimes, including executions.
A year ago, Amnesty released satellite imagery of bomb craters in and around Aleppo and warned of the grave risk to civilians.
"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," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser, who investigates human rights violations in Syria.
The report says the bombardment was "severely lopsided" toward opposition-controlled neighbourhoods.
Amnesty quoted Sara al-Wawi, a resident of the al-Marje area of Aleppo, who lost 20 relatives in an air strike in March.
"There were only civilians here. Our quarter was full of life, children playing everywhere. Now we are all dead, even those of us who are alive are dead inside, we have all been buried under this rubble," Wawi was quoted as saying.
Amnesty criticised foreign governments for failing to refer war crimes in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The West and Gulf Arab states have supported the revolt while Russia and Iran back Assad, each side sending weapons and money.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)