Civilians in Syria's war-torn city of Aleppo have described witnessing the bodies of decapitated children and body parts lining the streets, in a harrowing report detailing the “unthinkable atrocities” endured by those living through the civil war.
In a damning report, Amnesty International accused all parties in the conflict of violating international humanitarian law and committing "grave" abuses of human rights that have seen civilians hit by the worst of the violence.
The human rights group said armed opposition groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra had abducted nearly 1,000 individuals, 142 of them children, who were sometimes tortured and forced to pay 'fines' in order to secure their release.
Their report found residents living in opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo had experienced aerial bombardment campaigns launched by Syrian government forces, attacks which Amnesty said largely involved the use of devastating barrel bombs made from oil barrels, fuel tanks or gas cylinders filled with explosives and metal fragments.
Data from the Violations Documentation Center, a Syria-based monitoring group, said barrel bombs killed at least 3,124 civilians in Aleppo governorate between January 2014 and March 2015.
One local factory worker recalled seeing decapitated bodies lying in the street after a barrel bomb attack on the al-Fardous district in 2014. "I saw children without heads, body parts everywhere. It was how I imagine hell to be," he said.
A surgeon in the al-Sakhour neighbourhood recounted some of the horrific injuries sustained during barrel bomb attacks, saying: “We have not seen these types of injuries in any medical book.”
In pictures: Syria conflict
In pictures: Syria conflict
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Syrians carry children amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl on a street covered with dust following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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Syrians react as they stand amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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An injured Syrian man walks out from the rubble of a destroyed building following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian woman makes her way through debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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People stand on the rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Al-Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo
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Syrian residents stand amid the rubble of destroyed buildings
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A Syrian resident grasps a mattress amid rubble in the al-Firdous neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo
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A bullet-riddled parking sign stands amid debris in a deserted street leading into the old city of Homs
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A general view shows abandoned buildings on a deserted square in the old city of Homs after Syrian government forces regained control of rebel-controlled areas
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A mosque is pictured through shattered glass in the old city of Homs, as rebel fighters withdrew from the city centre in line with a negotiated withdrawal deal with the government after having held out under tight siege for nearly two years
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Buses carrying Free Syrian Army fighters leaving Homs. Exhausted and worn out from a year-long siege, hundreds of Syrian rebels left their last remaining bastions in the heart of the central city of Homs under a cease-fire deal with government forces. The exit of some 1,200 fighters and civilians will mark a de facto end of the rebellion in the battered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar Assad's rule, earning it the nickname of "capital of the revolution"
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Syrian government forces hold up a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad (L) while others raise the national flag on top of a pole in the old city of Homs
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad run through Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr crossing after their release by rebels. They were freed as part of a larger deal which saw the last remaining Syrian rebels in central Homs city evacuate their positions and free captives in several locations in northern Syria
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A Syrian woman and two children walk past heavily damaged buildings in the northern city of Aleppo
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A man carries a wounded girl following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Mowasalat neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A wounded man sits as he is treated at a makeshift hospital following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Sakhour district of the northern city of Aleppo
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Debris rises in what Free Syrian Army fighters and Islamic rebels said was an operation to strike Al-Sahaba checkpoint, which is considered a gateway to Al-Dayf valley, and remove forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Maarat Al-Nouman, Idlib province
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Men try to put out fire at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Civil Defence members try to put out fire
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Survivors react at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Residents queue as they wait to receive food aid distributed by the UNRWA at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus
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Belongings of Syrian rebels inside a chapel at Crac des Chevaliers, the world's best preserved medieval Crusader castle in Syria. The village was destroyed in fighting between the government and rebel forces while the castle, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, also has been damaged over the past two years
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Hosen Sabah, a 16-year-old student is comforted by his mother at a hospital in Damascus. Nosen was wounded by a mortar outside his school, while 14 other students were killed and over 80 wounded
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A Free Syrian Army fighter works on a locally made launcher before firing it towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Mork town
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Syrian policemen and citizens inspecting the site of a car bomb at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus. According to Syria's Arab News Agency (SANA), a car bomb explosion has gone off in the countryside of Damascus and initial information say there are casualties, where a car rigged with explosions was remotely detonated at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus during engineering units it was trying to dismantled it
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Opposition fighters carrying a rocket launcher during clashes against government forces in the Sheikh Lutfi area, west of the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man helps a woman to make her way through debris following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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A Syrian man reacts as he carries the body of injured boy following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 33 civilians were killed in the attack
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Syrian rescue workers carry the body of a woman following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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Syrians gather at the site of reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
“Barrel bombs are the most horrible and hurtful weapon… [We deal with] multi-trauma, so many amputations, intestines out of the body, it’s too horrible. We have seen incredible things.”
A member of the Civil Defence in Aleppo city said civilians were trapped in a continuous “circle of hell”. “The streets are filled with blood," he told Amnesty. "The people who have been killed are not the people who were fighting.”
Residents gave accounts of constantly looking up at the sky for the next bomb, until becoming desensitised to the conflict surrounding them. “It became routine for the helicopter to be there above us, so I finally stopped looking up,” one said. “I smelled death everywhere.”
“Civilians in Aleppo are suffering unthinkable atrocities,” the report concluded.
“As a backdrop to these grave violations, residents of Aleppo city live in appalling conditions. Residents in both opposition-held and government-held areas lack basic services such as water and electricity, and suffer shortages in food, medicine and gas to heat their homes.
"Amnesty International calls on all parties to the Syrian conflict to end deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects such as hospitals and schools; to end indiscriminate use of explosive weapons such as barrel bombs and mortars in populated areas; to end arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, abduction and torture [...] and to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to the UN and its implementing partners and in Syria as a whole."