Accessing and obtaining reliable information in war-torn areas is a difficult task.
The Syrian city of Raqqa is a strong example. Raqqa (liberated in October 2017) was controlled by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) since 2014. Serving as the capital of ISIS, the city was under tight control with movement restrictions. Most available information came from ISIS propaganda sources. This dearth of information posed severe problems in assessing the humanitarian situation within the city.
SpaceKnow analyzed satellite imagery of Raqqa from 2012 through 2017. In past years, Raqqa was a target of numerous bombings and over 80% of the city was damaged. Satellite imagery obtained via SpaceKnow Analytics shows significant structural changes in selected areas of interest that confirm this information. Deploying the SpaceKnow Car Tracking feature, we also witness a considerable drop in traffic corresponding with the conflict.
Raqqa City Center
These satellite images capture the center of Raqqa, with the Governorate Building and the Cultural Centre, adjacent to the Clocktower Roundabout. Both buildings were vital centers of ISIS activities within the city. As one can see, the Cultural Centre was destroyed by airstrikes between September 2015 and March 2016, and traffic significantly decreased in the area.
Raqqa Municipal Stadium
The Municipal Stadium, which ISIS used as a prison, was one of the last places to be liberated. Satellite imagery captures a partial destruction of the stadium by coalition airstrikes between March 21 and July 12, 2016. Using SpaceKnow Analytics, we can see that there was almost no traffic in the area during the days of liberation.
Al Mansoor Bridge
These satellite images capture the Al-Mansoor Bridge that was destroyed on February 3, 2017. It had been targeted by US warplanes to prevent ISIS from traveling to-and-from Raqqa, with the aim to isolate ISIS from the rest of their territory. SpaceKnow Car Tracking analysis shows a particular increase in activity in the area following the bombing. During the days following liberation, you can see the traffic drop.
The Mosque of Uwais and ʻAmmar ibn Yasir
These satellite images show the tombs of Uwais al-Qarani, Obay ibn Qays, and Ammar ibn Yasir Shrine, which were demolished in 2013. Notice a significant drop in traffic July 2016.