Digital Globe via Amnesty International
More than 600 probable artillery impact craters, represented here with yellow dots, were identified in Anadan, in the vicinity of Aleppo, according to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International released satellite images Wednesday which appeared to show the extent of artillery bombardment in the Syrian city of Aleppo where rebels are struggling to fight off an offensive by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
The international human rights group said both sides fighting in Aleppo, the country's largest city, might be held criminally accountable for their failure to protect civilians.
It said the images, obtained from commercial satellites over the July 23 - Aug. 1 period, showed more than 600 craters, probably from artillery shelling, dotting Aleppo's surrounding areas. The craters were represented with yellow dots in the images.
One photo, from July 31, showed craters next to what looked like a residential housing complex in the nearby town of Anadan, Amnesty said.
The organization expressed concern about the deployment of heavy weaponry in residential parts of Aleppo.
Digital Globe via Amnesty International
This July 31 image released by Amnesty International shows a residential housing complex adjacent to the small town of Anadan, where probable artillery impact craters have been identified.
"Amnesty International is sending a clear message to both sides in the fighting: Any attacks against civilians will be clearly documented so that those responsible can be held accountable," said Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager for Amnesty International USA.
"Turning Syria's most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians. The atrocities in Syria are mounting already," Koettl said.
"The Syrian military and the opposition fighters must both adhere to international humanitarian law, which strictly forbids the use of tactics and weapons that fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets," he added.
People resisting the army of President Bashar Assad in northern Syria cope with loss and prepare for fighting.
The popular uprising against Assad's rule erupted 17 months ago. Activists say an estimated 20,000 people have been killed in the unrest, Reuters said.
Assad has been reinforcing troops in preparation for an assault to recapture rebel-held districts of Aleppo after repelling fighters from most of the capital Damascus. The fighting on the ground has been fierce.
Stringer / Reuters
After months of protests and violent crackdowns, a look back at the violence that has overtaken the country.
On Wednesday, rebels abandoned at least one position in a battered district where battles have raged for days, Reuters reported.
"We have retreated, get out of here," a lone rebel fighter yelled at Reuters journalists as they arrived Wednesday in the Salaheddine district. Nearby checkpoints that had been manned by rebel fighters for the last week had disappeared.
A Syrian government security source told Lebanon's Al-Manar television that its forces were now in control of the district, but an opposition watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said clashes were still occurring there, Reuters reported.
Russian general killed?
Meanwhile, a Syrian rebel group said Wednesday it had killed a Russian general working as an adviser to Syria's Ministry of Defense in an operation on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
A video statement from a group calling itself the "Hawks Special Operations Battalion ... a division of the Military Leadership of Damascus City and Province," gave the name of the general as Vladimir Petrovich Kochyev. The video, sent to Reuters, showed what the rebels said was a copy of his ID, as issued by the Syrian military.
At least 262 al-Qaida militants are now operating in the border area between Turkey and Syria and rebels say another group of fighters are living in a tented camp just outside Aleppo, Syria's largest city. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
The operation occurred in the Ghouta region, west of Damascus, Reuters said.
But Russian news agencies quoted Moscow's defense ministry as calling the report a "bald-faced lie." The general appeared in person, Itar-Tass said.
"I want to confirm that I am alive and well," the news agency quoted him as saying, according to Reuters.
The same group claimed responsibility for the assassination of four of Assad's top lieutenants in Damascus last month.
The rebel's main armed group the Free Syrian Army called the purported killing of the Russian general, along his private translator, evidence that Russia was involved in the "humanitarian crimes" against Syrians, according to pan-Arab news channel al-Arabiya.
"We warn all the snakes to go back to their dens whether it is Russia, Iran and Iraq or Lebanon," a Free Syrian Army officer said in the video, al-Arabiya reported.
Rebels and regime forces continue their fight to control Syria's largest city. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
Russia, along with Iran, China and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, have opposed foreign intervention. Russia and China have blocked three tries to impose sanctions against Damascus in the United Nations Security Council.
As Assad's forces battle for Aleppo, there has been no let-up in fighting elsewhere in Syria. More than 240 people were killed across the country on Tuesday, 40 of them in the central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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