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In key Syrian city, snipers and bombing tear at fabric of daily life

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Watching for snipers

The path to one Aleppo front line snakes through two shops, to a main avenue west of the old city. Rebels have taken over, sitting inside at the office desk, making coffee. Outside, as darkness falls, a wall of white sandbags extends a couple of yards into the street.

Two worn barbershop chairs, placed upon the sidewalk for guards, grate and fall backward disconcertingly as men try to sit on them. Words spray-painted on canvas read: "Free Syria: The Shield of Islam."

A small firing hole in the sandbags is marked by the black powder of bullets fired often upon Syrian government positions farther west.

"Careful, the snipers are watching," warns rebel commander Abu Shaker. Indeed, a sniper lets off three rounds within 30 seconds of a visitor putting a camera to the gap to take a photograph. Farther down the street, undeterred, two women are getting out of a taxi. This correspondent and the rebels step back inside, through a facade of plate glass, for an interview.

"We think he's Iranian – he shoots exactly," says Abu Shaker. "We try to snipe him, and can't get him."

More sniper rounds, and a shard of glass from the cracked glass door pops inside and slides across the floor. Most of the victims on this street are civilians, with 13 or 14 every week – more citizens from Aleppo to add to the death toll, from a battle to oust President Bashar al-Assad that has no end in sight.

Says Abu Shaker: "We try to tell people not to cross this street."

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