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(author unknown)

Recent developments in Syria's civil war show an escalation of involvement from outside countries and groups, with outcomes increasingly difficult to predict. As the fractured rebel groups continue their battles against forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, the European Union recently voted to end an arms embargo, opening the possibility of new weapons shipments to the rebels. The Shia militant group Hezbollah, from neighboring Lebanon, has sent fighters and support into Syria to aid Assad's troops. Russia plans to ship several modern anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria, to deter foreign interference. Israel, meanwhile, is prepared to use force to stop the delivery of such systems, which it views as a threat. Gathered here are recent images from the ongoing conflict, now more than two years old. [37 photos]

A Syrian boy holds an AK-47 assault rifle in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 14, 2013. In northern Syria, the Kurdish population has largely observed a careful compromise with regime and rebel forces, fighting alongside neither, in return for security and semi-autonomy over majority Kurdish areas, but there have been reports of Kurdish fighters joining the battle with Syrian rebels in certain areas, including in Sheikh Maqsud. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)     

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Original author: 
Aryn Baker

With its vast oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest concentrations of super rich households in the world. But an estimated 20 percent of the population, if not more, lives in crippling poverty. Beggars panhandle in the shadows of Riyadh’s luxury shopping malls, and just a few kilometers away families struggle to get by in the capital’s southern slums. While the government has finally acknowledged that poverty is a problem in the kingdom, the world of the Saudi poor is largely hidden from sight (to read more, see the new article on Saudi Arabia in the international edition of TIME, available to subscribers here).

Accessing this world is a difficult undertaking for foreign journalists, granted only with the assistance of a few dedicated social workers who risk government opprobrium to expose the realities of life lived on the margins. The Saudi state offers free health care and education, but little in the way of income assistance or food stamps. Many poor Saudi families rely on handouts from private citizens instead. Muslims are expected to give a portion of their annual income to charity, and many go beyond the bare minimum. Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s richest investor, estimates that he has given several billions of dollars in charity over the past 30 years, much of it wired directly to the accounts of petitioners who apply to his office for assistance with paying back loans, buying a car or getting married. It’s not necessary, but most of those supplicants visit the prince in person as part of a weekly ritual dating back to the early days of the al Saud dynasty. They line up to deliver their requests. Several pause to recite poems in praise of his generosity. The government has pledged to eradicate poverty, but it is a difficult and long-term undertaking made all the more complex by a rapidly growing population and a paucity of jobs.

Lynsey Addario is a photographer based in London and a frequent contributor to TIME.

Aryn Baker is the Middle East bureau chief for TIME. Follow her on Twitter @arynebaker.

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Bedouin village in East Jerusalem 2011

Giuliano Camarda (b. 1978, Italy) is a freelance documentary photographer focusing on Palestinian-Israeli issues. He spent one year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, working on several projects related to the consequences of war in the Balkans. Giuliano also cover news and collaborates with humanitarian NGO’s as a photographer and photography teacher. He has been selected for the Manuel Rivera Ortiz Grant in 2011. His works have been published on National Geographic Italia, La Repubblica, Zoom Magazine, Witness Journal, among others.

About the Photograph:

“This picture was taken in the Bedouin village of Wadi Abu Hindi, one of the most difficult communities in the area of East Jerusalem. The village is nestled in the desert, between the biggest rubbish dump of Jerusalem (Abu Dis), a military area used by Israeli army for training, and the illegal settlement of Qedar. People of this area live in miserable shacks, without electricity or running water, grazing their sheep between debris, being subject to demolition and attacks by settlers. Despite this, the communities have shown determination and unbelievable resilience that led the Israeli military authorities to draw up a relocation plan last October. Ignoring the aspirations, needs, traditions and the system of relations inherent in the Bedouin culture, the plan provides the deportation and a forced establishment of the Jahalin tribe a  few meters far from the rubbish dump.”

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Residents of the besieged neighborhood of Khadeiye run through the streets to avoid snipers.  Sheets are hung and moved as the snipers move to try and block their view .
One of the members of the Free Army of Syria, and formerly a soldier in the Syrian Army, looks around a corner after hearing shots fired nearby in Khadeiya.  The collection of volunteers guard their neighborhood from inside houses as the Syrian Army fires at them from across the streets and high locations.
A well known wedding singer, whispers the words of a revolutionary song into the ears of children so they can sing them.
Water, and electricity have been cut since Khadeiya was taken by the opposition.  Now electricity is snuck in on clandestine power lines and water is distributed from old wells.
A member of the Free Syrian Army approaches the border of Khadeiya where the Syrian Army is firing on them.  Scattered machine gun fire can be heard coming from both sides but the real fear comes with the sound of artillery and RPGs.
Families have made a refugee camp out of an orphanage in Homs.  The only requirement is that a member of the family must have died or be in jail.  This room houses three families from beside Baba Amr, Homs.  After the fled the violence their houses were completely ransacked, allegedly by pro-government thugs.
In a house on the border of Baba Amr, Homs bullet holes riddle the walls and furniture.  Blocks of the city were abandoned and most shops were closed.
A small party is held in the center of Khadeiya where men and their children  come mainly to sing anti-government songs and dance.
One of the soldiers of the Syrian Free Army is brought into a makeshift hospital after he was hurt in an explosion.  The small clinic is the only one left after 3 other hospitals and clinics were shelled.
One of the officers of the Free Syrian Army sits with his family in their home in Khadeiya.  He is unusual for keeping his family in the middle of the bullet riddled neighborhood.  But he is too well know as a member of the opposition and as he says
Many of the remaining people and cars of Kahdeiya have been shot multiple times.    This soldier showed me 3 bullet holes.  One doctor showed me the 9 times he has been wounded while retrieving patients in their makeshift ambulance.
The main square of Khadeiya is pitted with holes from mortars and explosives.  At one time this square was used for organizing anti-government protests where many were originally killed.
A small party is held in the center of Khadeiya where men and their children  come mainly to sing anti-government songs and dance.
One of the residents of Khadeiya, Homs was shot in the legs by a sniper after leaving the evening protest.   After being patched up in the clinic he returned to the protest to tell his friends he is ok.
Damascus, Syria

Draft.

This report does not give an accurate description of all Syria’s current complexity. It is a look at one opposition neighborhood for one day.

After a year of intense fighting and low level suppression many parts of Khaldeya have bullet holes, the cars, the walls, the water tanks, the people. This suburb of Homs has been emptied of families and filled with bullet holes. The doctor that runs out to pick up wounded has 9 bullet holes. Sheets are hung in the street to block the view of snipers are like swiss cheese.

I was given one of the rare 7 day visas to enter Syria as a journalist. I wasn’t the best journalist to be sent, my expertise is Egypt, my Arabic language is Egyptian. But thanks to a good fixer and some digging we were able to travel around Homs relatively freely.

Getting into Khaldeya required a local guide and some quick driving down a road with a history of snipers. The bullet holes in other cars confirmed that sometimes they were shot. While in the neighborhood shots ring out at irregular intervals

The rebels are very aware of the Syrian government’s storyline that they are gangs of terrorists and were more than willing to show us around. Often when I start talking with a soldier he will pull out his army ID and go into the story of how he escaped.

Most of the soldiers claim that their weapons came from defecting soldiers, though they have had to buy ammunition from anywhere they can.

There was one former Syrian Army officer who told of how his brother was walking home from the first protest in Khaldeya when a sniper shot him through the stomach. At that moment he decided to defect and join the rebels. Now he is too well known so he stays with his family, unwilling to send them away. “I would rather have them die here with me than away from me” he says.

To defend their neighborhood the volunteers have smashed holes through the walls of the homes. A maze of paths are opened and closed as they move around the inside. As I move with them they aren’t so afraid of bullets as of the RPGs.

In one of the few houses with electricty a few volunteers write songs for the evening’s protest. It’s an almost daily event of a few men and children gathering in a central location. A couple of famous wedding singers lead the festivities.

One of the residents left the party early, half an hour later he was driven back in an ambulance, with fresh bandages. A sniper had shot him through the legs on his way home.

The rebellion in Syria is one of the most complex of the revolutions of the Arab spring. It isn’t a peacefull protest in a square, or violent fight from east to west, or easily described along majority, minority sectarian lines. It has many fronts, many divided families, is partially peaceful, partially violent, and has no clear majority of people or power. It also has many neighbors that want to influence the outcome.

This complexity is undercovered partially because there were relatively few foreign journalists based in Syria to start with and now it is excedingly hard for journalists to get in for long term coverage.

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Israeli photographer Oded Balilty has spent the past decade covering events in Israel and the Palestinian territories for the Associated Press. Born in Jerusalem, in 1979, Balilty was awarded the Pulitzer prize for breaking news photography in 2007 for his image of a lone Jewish settler challenging Israeli security officers during clashes in the West Bank settlement of Amona. Although Balilty continues to document the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—from daily clashes to more long term work that includes a seven year project shooting the separation barrier—he has also trained his lens on the quieter and more intimate aspects of street life in and around Tel Aviv, where he is based.

“This region is so saturated by pictures from the conflict so you always look for different stories and events,” says Balilty, who has begun several series on cultural themes within Israel. Since January, the photographer has produced essays on the ultra orthodox communities, including a series on a traditional Hasidic Jewish wedding near Tel Aviv, as well as the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, leader of the Hasidic sect Vizhnitz. and, over the last few days, the preparations for the Passover holiday, which began on Friday evening. “I try to go deeper and deeper into a story to capture things that outsiders do not know about this particular group of people,” he says.

In the same way that he’s trying to find different stories and make different pictures, Balilty says he’s trying to be a different photographer, too. “If I see photographers in one corner, I go away,” he says. “There is no need to take the same picture as five other good photographers. I’m tying to isolate myself and show the story from different angles, not only visually but mentally, to find small, quite moments within a big a crazy story.”

Balilty describes his work as something between art photography and a photojournalism—which is fitting, given the scope of his coverage of Israel. “I’m trying to tell stories with my pictures, but the aesthetics and the way I see things are very important for me,” he says. “The first and most important thing for me is to tell the story.”

And despite his foray into cultural coverage, Balilty maintains his finely-tuned process, approach and aesthetic when photographing more traditional news stories. When a gunman killed seven people in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, last month, Balilty was on hand to document the emotional return of the victim’s bodies to Jerusalem. And as with times past, Balilty handled the assignment with delicate sensibility and artistic intent, elevating his work above the general images typically seen on the wires.

Oded Balilty is a photographer for the Associated Press. He is based in Tel Aviv.

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Mapping Wikipedia

TraceMedia, in collaboration with the Oxford Internet Institute, maps language use across Wikipedia in an interactive, fittingly named Mapping Wikipedia.

Simply select a language, a region, and the metric that you want to map, such as word count, number of authors, or the languages themselves, and you've got a view into "local knowledge production and representation" on the encyclopedia. Each dot represents an article with a link to the Wikipedia article. For the number of dots on the map, a maximum of 800,000, it works surprisingly without a hitch, other than the time it initially takes to load articles.

This is part of a larger body of work from Mark Graham and Bernie Hogan, et. al, which focuses mostly on the gaps, specifically in the Middle East and North Africa.

There are obvious gaps in access to the Internet, particularly the participation gap between those who have their say, and those whose voices are pushed to the sidelines. Despite the rapid increase in Internet access, there are indications that people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remain largely absent from websites and services that represent the region to the larger world.

[via FloatingSheep]

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