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Fifteen months after the start of the uprising in Syria, several experts and at least one top U.N. official are now characterizing the escalating conflict as a Civil War. A wide range of anti-government insurgencies continue to battle official and unofficial Syrian government troops across the country. President Bashar al-Assad's forces have reportedly carried out a series of horrific civilian massacres, involving attack helicopters, shelling, and brutal incursions into rebel neighborhoods. The Syrian government continues to block foreign journalists, but a number of photographs and reports have made their way out of the country. [39 photos]

Birds fly over a destroyed minaret of a mosque at the northern town of Ariha, on the outskirts of Idlib, Syria, on June 10, 2012. An estimated 14,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March last year. (AP Photo)

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A year after the start of Syria's uprising, the weary nation is at an impasse, with a broad insurgency still active despite months of brutal attacks by the Syrian army and other forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Diplomacy has now stalled, international sanctions have had little effect, and no outside intervention appears imminent. According the the UN, more than 8,000 people have died in the conflict so far, and the violence is escalating in what has become a war of attrition. The Syrian government is denying access to the country by independent journalists, but a number of them have found their way in and out on their own, bringing back these images so the world can see what is taking place. [39 photos]

Aida cries as she recovers from severe injuries after the Syrian Army shelled her house in Idlib, Syria, on March 10, 2012. Aida's husband and two of her children were killed in the attack. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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The forces of President Bashar Assad have been relentless. They have continued to pound the predominantly Sunni enclave of Bab Amr in the city of Homs. They have struck at the rebellious town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border. Damascus is believed to be planting landmines near the Lebanese and Turkish borders even as the regime masses more troops nearby to deal with insurrectionists in the Idlib region in the northwest of the country. Meanwhile, in al-Qsair, a town south of Homs, government marksmen continued to take their toll. Says Alessio Romenzi, a photographer on assignment in the area for TIME: “The snipers do not sleep.”

Romenzi continues to document the work of the Free Syrian Army, a loose franchise of militias who are trying to coordinate their disparate campaigns against the Bashar government. Slowly, they are gathering weapons—though the increased demand for guns has kicked up the prices of Kalashnikovs. TIME’s Rania Abouzeid spent a day with FSA sympathizers trying to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to use against Damascus’ forces. Other FSA cells have already started using their own strung together versions of IEDs. The targets may include military trucks which will then be used to block roads to impede government supply lines. But most of all, they hope the IEDs will stop Assad’s tanks, which have been used not only to blast rebel emplacements but also reportedly to crush the regime’s opponents—physically.

More photographs from Syria by Alessio Romenzi can be seen here

Read more about the situation in Syria in the magazine: Syria’s Clashing Armies

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This month tensions between Iran and the West escalated in a standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. The death toll rose in bloodshed touched off by protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Meanwhile in the U.S., Republican candidates faced off on the campaign trail and in a series of primaries as the GOP convention inched nearer.

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