Satellite images show escalation of destruction in Aleppo

High-resolution satellite images taken between August 2012 and May in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, demonstrate the increasing amount of damage and destruction caused by the recent conflict, according to a report on Wednesday.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science compared nine satellite images collected at regular intervals between August 2012 and May and found a nearly constant rate of damage to physical structures. Researchers with the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project at AAAS also documented an increased deployment of military equipment and improvised roadblocks.

"We are documenting a war zone," Susan Wolfinbarger, the project's director, said. "It's a really dangerous situation in Aleppo. There are people on the ground reporting out, but they're in specific, localized places and not able to move around freely. What we're able to do is provide a comprehensive look at the situation over time, examining the entire city and assessing what is going on throughout the area."

Of the 713 incidents of destruction observed during the period of study, only six occurred in districts reportedly under the control of forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime. The rest occurred in areas under rebel or Kurdish control.

"Though other interpretations may be possible, this striking dichotomy in damage, in conjunction with direct observations of military activity, is consistent with reports that government forces have been using aircraft, missiles, and long-range artillery to bombard rebel-held areas," the report said.

According to the United Nations, the civil war in Syria took more than 100,000 lives since it began in 2011.

The Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project with the AAAS previously provided objective image analysis to aid in explaining events in Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan, South Ossetia, Nigeria and Afghanistan. The project recently received a $119,474 grant from the U.S. Institute of Peace to allow AAAS to analyze cross-border conflicts with satellite imagery to serve as a conflict early-warning prediction and prevention system.