Satellite imagery, GPS, and Google Maps are all high-tech

ways to find your way around, and now they are revealing military moves by

the Syrian government.

Satellite images of Aleppo, Syria, show that the Assad

regime has deployed its heavy artillery in civilian neighborhoods. The American

Association for the Advancement of Science’s Geospatial and Human Rights

Project has been monitoring the situation over the past several months.Their full report is here.

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The pictures underscore the hardening of positions in Syria’s most populous city. As it is, the war has resulted in suicide bombings and a war of snipers.

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The AAAS analysis covered 182 square kilometers of Aleppo

and surrounding areas. It was based on satellite images captured on Aug. 9 by

DigitalGlobe’s Quickbird-2 satellite and on Aug. 23 by GeoEye’s IKONOS, as well

as information provided by AIUSA and media reports. A Google Earth image

taken on Oct. 5 of last year was also used to investigate changes in the features

of a military base.

The QuickBird satellite, launched in 2001, can see objects

down to 24 inches across, from an orbit 279 miles up. IKONOS orbits higher, at

about 430 miles and can see objects as small as three feet.

It’s part of a longstanding AAAS project to use image

analysis and satellite data such as GPS to monitor humanitarian crises in

troubled regions such as Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Ossetia, Afghanistan and


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The AAAS said its image analysis wasn’t perfect -– the high

population density in Aleppo means that

tall buildings can cast shadows. 

But a lot of detail can still be picked up. In a neighborhood called

Salaheddine, for example, smoke is visible above an urban area too tightly

packed to reveal street-level changes.

Getting information about Syrian troop movements has been

difficult at best; few news organizations operate inside the country and those

that do have to navigate between areas controlled by the opposition.

Top photo: Recently-constructed “revetments” — barriers to protect from artillery and probably mortar

positions — are visible near Aleppo airport on Aug. 9. 

Image: AAAS / DigitalGlobe