Newly released aerial photos from Syria’s largest city, taken between September 2012 and May 2013, depict widespread destruction of historic and cultural sites, evidence of infrastructure damage and “relentless bombardment” in civilian areas -- all signs, according to Amnesty International, that the Syrian regime has shown “utter disregard” for international law.
The photos aren’t the first or only documentation of widespread damage in war-torn Aleppo. But they are, according to Amnesty, one of the most comprehensive analyses of satellite photos from Syria to date.
This first set of images, from December 2012 and February 2013, shows a section of Aleppo before and after the Tariq al-Bab ballistic missile strike on Feb. 22. The strike killed 141 people and sparked outrage from the international community, with many arguing that such an inaccurate missile would only be used in residential areas with the intention of killing civilians.
The second photo set shows a grim before-and-after view of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, whose minaret was destroyed in fighting last April. The 11th-century mosque had previously been one of Aleppo’s oldest and best-preserved cultural landmarks.
Other satellite images analyzed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and released by Amnesty bore out similar stories: entire blocks reduced to rubble, sprouting roadblocks and checkpoints, shell craters and armored vehicle tracks in civilian areas, and significant damage to Aleppo’s historic Old City. AAAS estimates that the city has seen roughly three “incidents” of destruction per day since July of last year. Of those incidents, 316 have taken place in opposition-held zones and 299 in contested zones -- versus six in the territory held by the regime.
That makes sense, considering Assad’s superior stockpile -- including of Scud missiles, which caused the damage you see in the first set of photos. Still, it’s concerning to rights groups, who say the photos provide incontrovertible evidence that Assad has fired frequently on civilian neighborhoods.
“Combined with field research and citizen video, the satellite image analysis adds to a growing body of evidence of potential war crimes in the conduct of the Syria conflict,” Amnesty said in a statement. The organization has called for the U.N. Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.