Regime razed neighbourhoods: rights group

The Syrian government used controlled explosives and bulldozers to raze thousands of residential buildings, in some cases entire neighbourhoods, in a campaign that appeared designed to punish civilians sympathetic to the opposition or to cause disproportionate harm to them, an international human rights group said Thursday.

BEIRUT — The Syrian government used controlled explosives and bulldozers to raze thousands of residential buildings, in some cases entire neighbourhoods, in a campaign that appeared designed to punish civilians sympathetic to the opposition or to cause disproportionate harm to them, an international human rights group said Thursday.

The demolitions took place between July 2012 and July 2013 in seven pro-opposition districts in and around the capital, Damascus, and the central city of Hama, according to a 38-page report by Human Rights Watch. The New York-based group said the deliberate destruction violated international law, and called for an immediate end to the practice.

“Wiping entire neighbourhoods off the map is not a legitimate tactic of war,” Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher for HRW, said. “These unlawful demolitions are the latest additions to a long list of crimes committed by the Syrian government.”

Human Rights Watch said many of the demolished buildings were apartment blocks, and that thousands of families have lost their homes because of the destruction.

It said government officials and media have described the demolitions as part of urban planning or an effort to remove illegally constructed buildings. But Human Rights Watch said its investigation determined that military forces supervised the demolitions, which in each instance targeted areas that had recently been hit by fighting and were widely understood to be pro-opposition.

There also is no indication, HRW said, that pro-government districts have been targeted for similar controlled destruction.

The neighbourhoods targeted were Masha al-Arbayeen and Wadi al-Jouz in Hama, and Qaboun, Tadamoun, Barzeh and the Mezzeh military airport in Damascus as well as Harran al-Awamid outside the capital.

The report includes satellite images of the neighbourhoods before and after the demolitions, providing a window on the scale of the destruction.

Buildings in the Hama neighbourhood of Masha al-Arbaeen, a wedge-shaped district bordered by highways on three sides, are clearly visible in a photo dated Sept. 28, 2012. In a second photo from Oct. 13, the buildings have been pulverized into a white smudge, while the adjacent neighbourhoods remain untouched.

Residents told Human Rights Watch that the government bulldozers directed by the military moved in after the rebels retreated from the area in the face of an army offensive.

Another Hama neighbourhood, Wadi al-Jouz, faced a similar fate.

HRW cited one woman who lived near Wadi al-Jouz, who said the army came to her district afterwards and announced over loudspeakers “that they would destroy our neighbourhood like they destroyed Wadi al-Jouz and Masha al-Arbaeen should a singled bullet be fired from here.”

In the cases of both Hama neighbourhoods, local residents told Human Rights Watch opposition fighters had used the districts to enter and leave the city because of their location on the outskirts.

The report also provided accounts and images of the Damascus neighbourhoods of Qaboun, Tadamoun, Barzeh and the Mezzeh military airport, as well as Harran al-Awamid outside the capital.

Residents said government forces gave them little or no warning before razing their homes, and it was nearly impossible to remove their belonging before the demolitions, the report said. HRW also said that owners it interviewed reported receiving no compensation from the government.

Human Rights Watch said that noted that some of the demolitions took place near military facilities or in areas recently engulfed in fighting.

“It’s not enough that there’s some tangential military objective or benefit to conducting the demolitions,” HRW’s Lama Fakih said. “The standard really requires that it be militarily necessary, and even with that military necessity there’s a manner in which these demolitions need to take place that does not disproportionately harm civilians, which has not been the case here.”

Human Rights Watch said it based its report on 14 satellite images, interviews with 16 witnesses and owners of houses that were demolished. It also reviewed media reports, government statements, and videos posted online of the destruction and its aftermath.

“No one should be fooled by the government’s claim that it is undertaking urban planning in the middle of a bloody conflict,” Solvang said. “This was collective punishment of communities suspected of supporting the rebellion. The UN Security Council should, with an ICC referral, send a clear message that coverups and government impunity won’t stand in the way of justice for victims.”

Just Posted

BREAKING: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ways to prevent a kitchen fire

Fire prevention officer releases safety tips

The cost of flushing sanitary wipes is brought to Red Deer city council

More public education is needed about what not to flush down toilets

WATCH: Rebels play floor hockey with Annie L. Gaetz students

The Rebels may be on a losing streak but they were definitely… Continue reading

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

This robotic maid takes us one step closer to ‘The Jetsons’

Imagine this: You’re rushing to get ready for work — juggling emails,… Continue reading

Milan line offers canine couture for pampered pooches

Milan has long been the world’s ready-to-wear fashion leader. Now, dogs are… Continue reading

Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye welcome baby girl

NEW YORK — It’s a girl for Kim Kardashian West and her… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month