Assad army wipes rebel areas 'off face of map'
Syria's government has razed thousands of homes as "collective punishment" for communities that back the opposition in Damascus and in Hama province, according to a human rights group.
In a report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Bashar Al-Assad's government of "wiping entire neighbourhoods off the map" by means of bulldozers and explosives.
"These unlawful demolitions are the latest additions to a long list of crimes committed by the Syrian government," said Ole Solvang, HRW's emergencies researcher.
The New York-based group said it had documented seven cases of demolition between July 2012 and July 2013 – two in Hama province in central Syria and five in and around Damascus.
Using satellite imagery, the group said that it estimated a total area of at least 345 acres (140 hectares) had been razed.
Many of the buildings demolished were several storeys high, resulting in thousands of people losing their homes.
One such neighbourhood to be razed was Masha al-Arbaeen in Hama.
HRW said the areas affected all appeared to be opposition strongholds, and said there was little evidence to back government claims that the demolitions were part of urban planning efforts.
A restaurant owner in the Qabun district in north-east Damascus told HRW that he was forced to leave the scene of a demolition and was threatened with detention.
"Before my eyes, all of my family's hard work was destroyed in one second," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)