January 30, 2014

II. Demolition of Wadi al-Jouz neighborhood, Hama

Dates of demolition: April 30-May 15, 2013

Estimated area demolished: 10 hectares

April 30, 2013

May 29, 2013

Between April 30 and May 15, 2013, government forces demolished the entire Wadi al-Jouz neighborhood (a total building surface area of 10 hectares), located on the northwestern edge of Hama city, according to satellite imagery and two witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch.

As in the case of the Masha` al-Arb`een neighborhood, pro-government media claimed the authorities were removing “urban irregularities” that had made the neighborhood ugly and impeded traffic.[13] Other news articles, however, described the operations in the neighborhood as restoring peace and security, killing terrorists, and seizing weapons and ammunition.[14]

Human Rights Watch interviewed two local residents who witnessed the demolition of the neighborhood. They told Human Rights Watch that, just as with the al-Arb`een neighborhood, opposition fighters had used the Wadi al-Jouz neighborhood to enter and leave Hama city because of its location on the edge of the city. At the end of April, government forces shelled the neighborhood for two days, causing many of the local residents to flee, according to the two witnesses.[15]

In the course of the following week, government forces used bulldozers to destroy all the buildings in the neighborhood according to the two witnesses. One woman, who observed the destruction of Wadi al-Jouz from her house across the highway, told Human Rights Watch:

I could see the neighborhood from my balcony. First I saw big trucks, accompanied by the military, taking things from the houses in the neighborhood. Then bulldozers started destroying the houses. The government said that a lot of rebels were hiding in Wadi al-Jouz.[16]

According to the other witness, the Syrian army used megaphones and told the residents they had one hour to pack their things.[17]

Satellite imagery recorded on April 30 and May 29, 2013, confirm the total demolition of 10 hectares of buildings, also showing heavy construction machinery such as bulldozers and excavators in the area.[18]

While local residents admitted that many buildings in the Wadi al-Jouz neighborhood had been built without the appropriate permissions, the army’s behavior after the demolition of the neighborhood indicates that it had little to do with permissions. A woman who lived in a neighboring district told Human Rights Watch:

After the demolition, the army came to our neighborhood, saying through loudspeakers that they would destroy our neighborhood like they destroyed Wadi al-Jouz and Masha` al-Arb`een should a single bullet be fired from here.[19]

[13]المباشرة بتنظيم حي مشاع وادي الجوز بمدينة حماة وإزالة كل أشكال المخالفات ,”( “Moving forth with organizing Mosha’ Wadi Al Joz neighborhoodin thecityof Hamaand removingallforms ofviolations”), SANA state news agency, May 1, 2013, http://sana.sy/ara/347/2013/05/01/480181.htm (accessed January 9, 2014).

[14] “Syrian Arab Army Restore Security to Several Areas in Hama,” Syria Times, May 1, 2013, http://syriatimes.sy/index.php/news/local/4788-syrian-arab-army-restore-security-to-several-areas-in-hama (accessed August 1, 2013);

القضاء على أعداد من الإرهابيين ودك أوكارهم وتدمير أدوات إجرامهم في أرياف دمشقوحمص واللاذقية وحلب" ,“(“Eliminating terroristsand destroyingtheir hideoutsand their criminal toolsin ruralDamascus, Homs,Latakia andAleppo”), SANA state news agency, May 2, 2013,

http://sana.sy/ara/336/2013/05/02/480123.htm (accessed January 9, 2014); “سانا: الجيش السوري يعيد الأمن الى وادي الجوز ويضبط مصنعاً للعبوات الناسفة ,” (“SANA: Syrian armyrestoressecurityinWadi Al Jozandcaptures a factory for manufacturingimprovised explosive device”), Almada, May 1, 2013, http://almada.ndpcdn.com/news/index/4300/%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A7--%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%B4-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%88%D8%B2-%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%B6%D8%A8%D8%B7-%D9%85%D8%B5%D9%86%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%8B-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%81%D8%A9 (accessed January 9, 2014).

[15] Human Rights Watch interview, Lebanon, July 11, 2013.

[16] Human Rights Watch interview, Lebanon, July 11, 2013.

[17] Human Rights Watch phone interview, July 31, 2013.

[18]Satellite imagery dates analyzed by Human Rights Watch: April 30, and May 29, 2013; Sources: EUSI, USG and Astrium; Copyright: DigitalGlobe 2014 and CNES 2014.

[19] Human Rights Watch interview, Lebanon, July 11, 2013.