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Narciso Contreras / AP

Night falls on a Syrian rebel-controlled area as destroyed buildings, including Dar Al-Shifa hospital, are seen on Sa'ar street after airstrikes targeted the area last week, killing dozens in Aleppo, Syria.

Narciso Contreras / AP

Men warm themselves by a fire in a Syrian rebel controlled area in where residents are trying to get back to their daily lives after months of heavy fighting in Aleppo, Syria.

Narciso Contreras / AP

On Sa'ar street in Aleppo, an apartment is illuminated by fire used to keep warm.

More photos from Syria on PhotoBlog

Slideshow: Syria uprising

Story: Airport road reopens but Internet still cut

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Joziane Shedid - that was her name. After a difficult search, we had managed to identify the blood-soaked young woman in a picture taken by Reuters photographer Hasan Shaaban in the wake of a...

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Fabio Bucciarelli / AFP - Getty Images

October 23: An elderly woman crosses a street next to a long black cloth used to separate the area from Syrian government forces' sniper fire, in the Bab el-Adid district in Aleppo. UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is pushing "extremely hard" for a ceasefire in Syria and will brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday on his efforts, the UN spokesman said.

By David R Arnott, NBC News

As we edited our slideshow on the conflict in Syria today, the picture above made us pause. The scene looked familiar. Checking back through the hundreds of pictures wire agencies have transmitted from Aleppo over recent weeks, we found out why: We had seen this street before, 39 days earlier.    

Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images

September 14: A man carrying grocery bags tries to dodge sniper fire as he runs through an alley near a checkpoint manned by the Free Syrian Army in the northern city of Aleppo. Syrian regime forces used fighter jets and helicopter gunships to pound the city and province of Aleppo, monitors said.

Some tell-tale details remain the same. The red traffic sign on the right has the same small scratch across its band of white. The same green and red graffiti is just about visible on a distant wall. But in the intervening weeks, other things have changed. Rubble is piled up on the left of the frame, where an intact wall and sidewalk was previously visible. And while desperate civilians continue to risk the dangerous path across this piece of open ground, a long piece of cloth has been hung from one side of the street to the other, in an attempt to block the view of snipers.

In an article published on Tuesday, Hamza Hendawi of The Associated Press described the daily lives of Aleppans as the conflict rages around them:

With death lurking around every corner, the survival instincts of Aleppo's population are being stretched to the limit every day as the battle between Syria's rebels and the regime of President Bashar Assad for the country's largest city stretches through its fourth destructive month. Residents in the rebel-held neighborhoods suffering the war's brunt tell tales of lives filled with fear over the war in their streets, along with an ingenuity and resilience in trying to keep their shattered families going.

And while residents of the rebel-held areas express their hatred of Assad's regime and their dream of seeing him go, they also voice their worries over the rebels and the destruction that their offensive has brought to their city. Graffiti on the shutter of a closed store declares the population's sense of resignation: "God, you are all we've got." Read the full story.

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Phil Moore / AFP - Getty Images

A Syrian rebel with a bandaged eye walks past closed shops in the Bab Nasr district of Aleppo on Aug. 14.

Fresh fighting erupted in Aleppo, Syria, monitors said, as a pro-government daily warned the capture of a key rebel district was just a "first step" in the retaking of all opposition areas. 

Core loyalist troops, drawn mostly from Assad's minority Alawite sect, are locked primarily into what is shaping up to be a protracted battle for Aleppo, as well as in shoring up an uncertain grip over the capital Damascus.

In the process, Assad faces the specter of Deir al-Zor province slipping out of his orbit and with it Syria's 200,000 barrel-a-day oil output, military experts and diplomats say.

Continue reading Reuters article.

Phil Moore / AFP - Getty Images

A Syrian rebel holds his rifle in the Bab Nasr district of Aleppo on Aug. 14.

Phil Moore / AFP - Getty Images

A shell blast damaged a hospital room in the Shaar district of the northern city of Aleppo on Aug. 14.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

A Free Syrian Army fighter fires his sniper rifle from a house in Aleppo on Aug. 14.

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Slideshow: Syria uprising

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

After months of protests and violent crackdowns, a look back at the violence that has overtaken the country.

Launch slideshow

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If there is a place on earth that inspires more melancholy, reminiscence and regret than Abkhazia, I have yet to find it. A republic of sighs, home to 250,000 people who still mourn their dead as much as they plan their future.

“Do you remember how it used to be?” they say. “It was like a little Soviet Union.” This is a sweet memory, because the Soviet Union, to Abkhazia, was above all a place where dozens, even hundreds, of races lived under one roof in peace. The brutal ethnic war of ’92-’93 erased many things, but not the memory of a time before bloodshed.

This is equally bittersweet for photographer Yuri Kozyrev, who summered in nearby Sochi as a boy, and who remembers, like all children of the Soviet Union, the paradise that was Abkhazia. Imagine: high mountains dive toward a warm sea. Beaches against verdant forests, long promenades lined with ice cream vendors under palm trees.

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Abkhazia’s first declaration of independence from Georgia. That initial gesture of July 23, 1992, was boycotted by the ethnic Georgians in government and ignored by the outside world. But soon enough, it began a cycle of attacks and reprisals, fueled by alcohol, old grudges, and the chaos of the Soviet collapse. Total war soon followed, one of the bloodiest and most fratricidal conflicts of a decade that saw plenty of both.

And though the Abkhaz people were victorious—they alone rule Abkhazia now—the republic they liberated has never quite come into being.

Kozyrev and I visited Abkhazia last year, traveling south along that fabled coastline, up into the mountains, down to the tense Georgian border in Gali. Kozyrev had been in Abkhazia during the war; it was my first visit. We were both, however, equally struck by how time just seems to stand still there. A rusting trawler lists on the beach in Sukhum, the radios in the beat up taxis all play songs about the war. In the mountain mining town of Tkvarchal, which starved and suffered under siege during the war, seems half-deserted and wholly inhospitable. Even the national pastime is a sleepy one: the Abkhaz are famous for their skill at dominoes.

Part of this torpor is forced upon them. Georgia and its allies, including the U.S., have been effective in isolating the republic, which it sees as perpetrators of ethnic cleansing against Georgians during and after the war. Only Venezuela, Nicaragua, Vanuatu and a couple of equally small states have recognized its independence. Georgia has blockaded all southern routes by sea and land, and so Abkhazia has to rely on the kindness of its neighbor and patron Russia, with whom it shares a land border.

Yet, they still have their natural gifts. The war did not erase the beaches or the mountains. Russians, particularly poorer ones who can’t afford the neon Shangri-la that Sochi is becoming, still flock to the shore.

The Abkhaz also have something they won at a heavy, heavy price: freedom. The question remains, twenty years later: what will they do with it?

Nathan Thornburgh is a TIME contributing writer and a founder of Roads & Kingdoms, a new journal of foreign correspondence, food, and photography. You can read his full report on his travels to Abkhazia with Kozyrev here.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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Last week, seven Palestinian men sat for Pulitzer Prize-winning Israeli photographer Oded Balilty in a home in the West Bank village of Bilin. Against a black backdrop, one man posed with a taut slingshot, two small pebbles resting in the sling. Another stared defiantly through a gas mask. A third carried a tire.

Balilty is no stranger to his subject matter. Based in Tel Aviv as an Associated Press photographer for more than a decade, Balilty has photographed daily clashes as well as the longer-term friction between Israelis and Palestinians. In 2007, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his image documenting a lone Jewish settler challenging Israeli security officers in the settlement of Amona.

Although his subject matter is familiar, his portraits transcend the ongoing conflict.

Clad in checkered kaffiyehs, masks and flags, they carry with them the objects of protest used in resistance against Israeli soldiers. Their improvised arsenal of everyday objects echoes the ongoing conflict—a struggle temporarily put on hold while Balilty photographed the men.

“The clashes have been going for years and years and it’s become repetitive, all these clashes every weekend,” Balilty told TIME. “But, this time I said, ok, I want to do something a little bit different. How am I going to show the conflict in a different way?”

He arrived at the idea of shooting portraits, but consulted with his colleague, Nasser Shiyoukhi, the AP’s Palestinian photographer from the West Bank, for help with the access.

“I asked him if it’s even possible for me, as an Israeli,” he said.

Shiyoukhi helped Balilty get in touch with the organizer of the weekly street demonstrations, who gave his consent for the photos to be taken—even arranging for the portraits to be shot inside the organizer’s house in Bilin, a village in the West Bank.

“The Palestinians are definitely not like the Israelis—they are aware of the power of the media. And any exposure for them, in any way, is an opportunity to explain their situation and to talk about the conflict. They are very open minded—they cooperate for a specific reason,” explained Balilty.

Despite the serious nature of the shoot, the atmosphere inside the studio lacked the conflicted tension Balilty expected.

“It’s a very serious issue. But mainly for me, I was trying to focus on the person and to tell like the general story through a few individuals,” said Balilty.

“On the weekend, they are in those protests, but other than that, they are totally normal people—they live normal lives, they go to school, they work, they have families. But yet these guys are always standing on the front lines of the protest and some of them get injured, some of them get arrested, some of them get killed,” he said.

Looking back on the shoot, the photographer was surprised by the way the day turned out.

“At the end of the day, we became like friends. We spent the entire day together, sat together and smoked a cigarette together, and we [shared] some common jokes and it was a very cool day. I wish, you know…it was like that all the time and everywhere. The experience I had that day…for me was one of the best things.”

Oded Balilty is a photographer for the Associated Press based in Tel Aviv. LightBox featured his work earlier this year in The Art of Storytelling.

LightBox updated the story at 3pm Saturday with comments from Oded Balilty. 




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WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
International pressure mounted on the Assad regime in Syria following a massacre of 108 people, nearly half of them children, in the Houla region. Olympic hopefuls trained for the London Games in far flung locations and Joplin, Missouri, marked one year since tornadoes ripped through the area.

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