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January 30, 2014 10:49 am

Human Rights Watch: Assad Regime Destroyed Neighborhoods Suspected of Supporting Rebels

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waving to an admiring crowd. Photo: Syrianpresidency Instagram account.

TIME – Over the past two years, the Syrian government has embarked on a systematic campaign to demolish large swaths of urban areas and raze entire neighborhoods in an effort to punish opposition supporters and drive suspected rebels out of strategic areas, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. The report details the destruction, by explosives and bulldozers, of thousands of residential buildings spread across seven neighborhoods in Damascus and Hama, two of Syria’s largest cities.

The practice of destroying civilian areas, either as a form of punishment or in an attempt to clear ground, contravenes the laws of war, says Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Wiping entire neighborhoods off the map is not a legitimate tactic of war,” Solvang says. “These unlawful demolitions are the latest additions to a long list of crimes committed by the Syrian government.”

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