As the Syrian government and opposition forces try to make peace in Geneva, the group Human Rights Watch has issued a new report that accuses the regime of demolishing entire neighborhoods that were considered opposition strongholds.
The report, “Razed to the Ground,” was issued Thursday and said it found seven cases of “large scale demolitions” in neighborhoods in Damascus and Hama. The first one took place in July 2012 and the most recent was last November.
Thousands of families lost their homes, said Human Rights Watch, which released satellite imagery that shows before-and-after photos of the devastated areas. Two are included here, at the top and bottom of the page.
The human rights group also said it interviewed 16 witnesses to the demolitions.
“Those responsible for the wanton destruction of civilian property or for imposing collective punishment have committed war crimes and should be investigated and held to account.”
Human Rights Watch went on to say that the Syrian government has given conflicting reasons for the demolitions. In some instances it has described it as necessary to tear down illegal construction and conform with urban planning efforts.
But in October 2012, Hussein Maklouf, a governor in the Damascus area, said in an interview that the demolitions were essential to drive out the opposition.