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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.

IN PICTURES: Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo

"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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