The afternoon skies over the neighborhood of al-Hara al-Kablie in Azaz, Syria, on Aug. 15 were pale blue over the quiet neighborhood streets. But just after 3 p.m., a fighter jet screamed through the air over the blocks of houses. Within seconds, entire streets were flattened, and dust and screams filled the air. Anna Neistat, acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), who visited the neighborhood after the attacks, said, "Yet again, Syrian government forces attacked with callous disregard for civilian life."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began using fighter jets against rebel forces in early August, as the battle for the key city of Aleppo began to heat up. The city, located about 25 miles from Azaz, is a key strategic prize for the rebels, vulnerable because its proximity to the Turkish border gives the rebels an opportunity to smuggle in weapons. But the embattled Assad regime has redoubled its efforts to hold the city, introducing air power despite calls by HRW and others that the bombing amounts to an indiscriminate attack on civilians.
In Azaz, it was certainly innocents who suffered the brunt of Assad's rage. HRW said that two Free Syrian Army facilities may have been the targets of the attack, but neither facility was successfully hit during the bombing. Rescuers used bulldozers to pull the bodies of the dead and dying from under the devastated buildings. More than 40 people were killed, and HRW estimates that over 100 were injured, though no precise figures exist. Here's an inside look at the horrific aftermath.
Above, the residential area in Azaz after the bombing on Aug. 15, 2012.
Rachel Beth Anderson/Human Rights Watch