NEW YORK, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch published a 38-page report Thursday saying Syrian authorities deliberately destroyed residential buildings in the capital Damascus.
"Wiping entire neighborhoods off the map is not a legitimate tactic of war," Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday.
The report includes witness statements, as well as photographic evidence, to suggest the Syrian government destroyed residential buildings in Damascus and in Hama, Syria's fourth-largest city, in 2012 and 2013.
The report highlights seven cases where Human Rights Watch said the Syrian government used explosives and bulldozers to raze residential buildings, an act the rights group said violates the laws of war.
Human Rights Watch said the demolitions were meant as punishment for the civilian population in the respective areas. The demolitions had no military purpose, the report said.
The report said all of the buildings in question were located in opposition strongholds. Human Rights Watch said government officials defended the action by saying it was part of overall urban planning efforts.
"No one should be fooled by the government's claim," Solvang said.
The report said thousands of families were left homeless because of the demolitions. No injuries or deaths were documented as a result of the demolitions, Human Rights Watch said.