Syrian government demolishing whole neighbourhoods to punish residents

NewsThe Guardian reports: The Syrian government has demolished thousands of buildings, in some cases entire neighbourhoods, in parts of Damascus and Hama, as part of a collective punishment against residents of rebel-held areas, Human Rights Watch has found.

Satellite imagery taken over both cities has revealed seven areas where neighbourhoods have either been largely destroyed or totally demolished. None of the destruction was caused during combat. Rather, the buildings have been systemically destroyed using bulldozers and explosives placed by troops who first ordered residents to leave, then supervised the demolitions.

A report released on Thursday morning says the Syrian regime claims that the demolitions were part of an urban planning programme that aimed to remove illegally constructed buildings. [Continue reading…]

Meanwhile, Vice reports: Last September, an 18-month-old girl named Rana starved to death in the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya. Her mother, Um Bilal, had watched helplessly for months as her child grew thinner and thinner, unable to do anything to ease her suffering. She holds the international community and the Syrian regime equally responsible for her child’s death. “The whole world watches the crimes of this regime that murdered my child and does nothing,” she said.

Under siege by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad since November of 2012, Mouadamiya is subject to regular and completely indiscriminate bombardment with heavy artillery, mortars, and massive barrel bombs dropped by regime aircraft. After more than a year of this, the town boasts almost no intact buildings and is getting extremely short on places to bury its dead. Despite all that has been thrown at it though, the people of Mouadamiya have, so far, refused to surrender their town.

Of all those who’ve suffered in Syria’s bloody civil war, Mouadamiya has experienced some of the most calamitous bad luck. Much of this is down to geography; it’s situated between Mezzeh Military air base to the east, the regime’s Republican Guard to the west and the elite fourth armored division (which is run by Assad’s brother and chief enforcer, Maher) to the south. This makes the town exceedingly easy to surround and choke off. Consequently, when the regime got bored of trying to retake the town from the various rebel battalions controlling it by direct assault and instead resorted to siege, the result was starvation.

The Syrian regime is employing similar tactics against other rebel-held Damascus suburbs and has been for close to a year now. Having tried and failed to take back these strategically vital areas for 15 months and having used everything in their arsenal—from tanks to fighter jets to a massive sarin gas attack on the 21st of August of last year—they are now resorting to simply starving their opponents to surrender or death. [Continue reading…]

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