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New satellite images show lights going out in Syria

Damage to infrastructure and generators over four years has left much of Syria in the dark
Residents of Douma ride through the street at night during an electricity shortage (AFP)

The increasing deprivation of Syrians was highlighted dramatically on Thursday with a satellite photo showing that 83 percent of the lights in Syria had “gone out" since 2011.

The WithSyria Coalition, a group of 130 charities and human rights organisations supported by a number of high-profile celebrities, released the striking images in tandem with a petition to world leaders to increase humanitarian aid to Syria, put an end to civilian deaths and manage a political end to the conflict.

"Taken from 500 miles above the earth, these satellite images help us understand the suffering and fear experienced by ordinary Syrians as their country is destroyed around them" said Dr Xi Li of Wuhan University in China, the lead researcher on the project.

"Eleven million people have fled their homes in terror and millions of buildings have been destroyed," he told Reuters.

"The electricity infrastructure itself is in need of wholesale re-building and repair after incessant and targeted attacks by all parties to the conflict, especially in areas under opposition control."

Among the worst-hit areas is Raqqa, the Islamic State’s (IS) main base of operations, which has seen a 96 percent decline in light output, and the war-torn city of Aleppo which has seen a 97 percent decline.

Four years of war have wrecked much of Syria’s infrastructure and power outages have become commonplace.

Ahmad Derry, director of the local opposition administration in Aleppo, told Al-Monitor that “the high-tension cable reaching Aleppo through the Zorba line does not meet the needs of the province. Moreover, taking advantage of it is often impossible because of the damage inflicted to the grid.”

“The regime wants to disrupt life in the liberated areas. Therefore, it is deliberately targeting the infrastructure there. The vicinity of the Hanano station was targeted with three barrels. Moreover, the two Aleppo stations of Al-Qadima and Sakhour were shelled, and the repair of these stations is very expensive and difficult,” he added.

More than 200,000 people have now been killed in Syria’s civil war, with over 10 million displaced within the country.

The rise of militant groups like the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and IS have further complicated the political situation in the country and increased international anxieties about the internationalisation of the conflict.

"The premise of the 'With Syria' campaigns is that the United States hasn’t acted to resolve the conflict in Syria because people aren’t aware of its horrors. But that’s probably wrong," wrote Marc Lynch in the Washington Post.

"To get a sense of how Americans think about Syria, I looked at every Syria question in the public opinion surveys collected in the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research database since January 2011 – 281 questions in all. Those surveys paint a pretty clear picture of an American public that knew perfectly well what was happening in Syria and whom to blame, and generally wanted to help, but absolutely rejected anything that smelled like military intervention."

"The activist campaigns might have more success translating a stand 'with Syria' into meaningful action if they proposed specific ways for concerned individuals to make a difference without supporting war," he added.

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