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Syrian War Worsens Ahead of Peace Conference

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Syria's civil war is nearly three years old now. It has claimed the lives of more than 120,000 people, forced 9 million to flee their homes, and caused a humanitarian crisis on a record scale. Earlier this week, the United Nations issued an appeal for $6.5 billion for Syrian aid -- its largest appeal ever for a single crisis. Fighting appears to be intensifying, especially in Aleppo, as both sides try to make gains before a scheduled peace conference in Switzerland on January 22. The situation on the ground remains incredibly complex and dangerous, with little real hope of immediate resolution. The photojournalists who shot the following photos did so at great personal risk; more than 20 journalists have been killed in the conflict so far, many more injured or abducted. [38 photos]

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Residents run from a fire at a gasoline and oil shop in Aleppo's Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood, on October 20, 2013. Witnesses said the fire was caused by a bullet fired by a sniper loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Karaj al-Hajez crossing, a passageway separating Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr, which is under the rebels' control and Al-Masharqa neighborhood, an area controlled by the regime. (Reuters/Haleem Al-Halabi)
Residents run from a fire at a gasoline and oil shop in Aleppo's Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood, on October 20, 2013. Witnesses said the fire was caused by a bullet fired by a sniper loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Karaj al-Hajez crossing, a passageway separating Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr, which is under the rebels' control and Al-Masharqa neighborhood, an area controlled by the regime. (Reuters/Haleem Al-Halabi)
A man holds a child that he said survived shelling from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, along a street in Duma neighborhood in Damascus, on November 17, 2013. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh) #
A Syrian Air Force fighter plane fires a rocket over the 80th Brigade's base near Aleppo International Airport, on November 8, 2013. A barrage of artillery and 25 airstrikes in a dawn attack allowed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad push into a key military base near rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo, a Reuters photographer said. The advance into the base, a large military position which rebels have held since February, follows a string of successful offensives this month. (Reuters/Molhem Barakat (Reuters/Molhem Barakat) #
Free Syrian Army fighters gather inside a cave in Maaret al-Naaman village, in Idlib, on October 17, 2013. (Reuters/Loubna Mrie) #
An abandoned Ferris wheel stands among buildings damaged by fighting between opposition fighters and Syrian government forces in Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, on October 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras) #
A Syrian man with more than half his body burned from an air strike leaves a field hospital to go back home -- a village turned into a battlefield with government forces in Idlib province, on September 22, 2013. (AP Photo) #
A young Free Syrian Army fighter looks through a hole in a wall in Aleppo's Saif al-Dawla district, on September 22, 2013. (Reuters/Loubna Mrie) #
A Syrian refugee boy fetches water at a refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon, on December 15, 2013. Tens of thousands of impoverished Syrian refugees living in tents, shacks and unfinished buildings throughout Lebanon face a miserable winter as aid organizations scramble to meet their needs, constantly overwhelmed by ever-more Syrians fleeing their country's war. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein) #
A Syrian refugee removes snow that accumulated on his tent following a storm in a makeshift refugee camp in the Lebanese village of Baaloul in the Bekaa Valley, on December 12, 2013. The UNHCR prepared stockpiles of items including plastic sheeting, floor mats, blankets and mattresses to help refugees whose shelters might be flooded or destroyed by the storm. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images) #
Children ride on a makeshift merry-go-round made from remnants of Russian bombs at a basement in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, on the second day of Eid al-Adha, October 16, 2013. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh) #
A man walks through a graveyard that was damaged by what activists said was shelling from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Kadi Askar neighborhood of Aleppo, on December 14, 2013. (Reuters/Mahmoud Hebbo) #
A fighter from the Tawhid Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, fires an anti-tank missile in Aleppo, on November 14, 2013. (Reuters/Molhem Barakat) #
Free Syrian Army fighters inspect a map using Google Earth on a laptop before an offensive towards Hanano Barracks, which is controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad from Aleppo's Karm al-Jabal district, on October 30, 2013. (Reuters/Saad Abobrahim) #
A worshiper lights a candle at the Syriac Orthodox Church in Al-Darbasiyah, Hasakah province, on November 13, 2013. Due to the clashes in north-eastern Syria, many Christians have fled the area seeking safety elsewhere, activists say. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Smoke rises due to an air strike that hit a village in Idlib province, on September 22, 2013. (AP Photo) #
A man carries a wounded girl who survived what activists say was an air strike by government forces in Aleppo's al-Ansari al-Sharqi neighborhood, on December 9, 2013. (Reuters/Ammar Abdullah) #
A father pauses while trying to search for his daughters under rubble at a site hit by what activists say was an air strike by government forces in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, on November 4, 2013. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh) #
A picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, near a Syrian opposition flag in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district, on December 3, 2013. (Reuters/Molhem Barakat) #
Islamist fighters hold up their weapons during their graduation ceremony at a camp in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, on November 28, 2013. The newly graduated fighters, who went through military training, will operate under the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham brigade. Secular segments of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad are also facing increased hostility from growing numbers of Islamic groups in rebel-controlled areas. (Reuters/Diaa Al-Din) #
Fire lights up the night after an attack on gas pipelines in the east of Damascus city, on October 23, 2013. Much of Syria, including the capital Damascus, was hit by a power cut after rebels attacked a gas pipeline, state media said. (Reuters/SANA/Handout via Reuters) #
Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite fighters from a group called the Hussein Brigade arrest a member of the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army in the town of Hatita, in the countryside of Damascus, on November 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo) #
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, dead bodies of Syrian rebels litter the ground after fighting with Syrian government forces according to SANA, near the Otaiba area, near Damascus, on October 25, 2013. Syrian government troops on Friday ambushed rebels near the capital, killing at least 40 opposition fighters, state media reported. (AP Photo/SANA) #
A disabled patient tries a prosthetic leg at a welfare workshop in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, on October 24, 2013. The center produces prostheses from different materials including remnants of weapons, plastic mannequins and water barrels, and offers them to physically disabled victims of the war. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh) #
Rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army fire a heavy machine gun during fighting against government forces on November 18, 2013 in the Salah al-Din neighborhood of Aleppo. (Mahmud Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images) #
Carcasses of dead cows lie on the ground due to a shortage of cattle feed in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, on November 12, 2013. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh) #
A boy pedals on a bicycle to generate electricity in a shop in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, on November 23, 2013. (Reuters/William Ismail) #
A Free Syrian Army fighter throws a mortar shell to a fellow fighter in the Jabal al-Akrad area in Syria's northwestern Latakia province, on November 6, 2013. (Reuters/Khattab Abdulaa) #
Free Syrian Army fighters take cover moments after a rocket they launched goes astray in Kafr Nboudah village, Idlib province, on September 20, 2013. (AP Photo) #
A mortar fired by Free Syrian Army fighters explodes, injuring fighters nearby, in Aleppo, on December 15, 2013. (Reuters/Mahmoud Hebbo) #
War-damaged buildings in Aleppo's Karm al-Jabal district, on November 23, 2013. (Reuters/Molhem Barakat) #
Opposition fighters help a comrade who was shot in the leg by a sniper during clashes in the Salaheddin district of Aleppo, on October 9, 2013. Nearly 50 fighters were killed in three days of clashes between jihadists and mainstream rebels in Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (Medo Halab/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Free Syrian Army tank fires a shell towards forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in Aleppo, on November 30, 2013. (Reuters/Molhem Barakat) #
Abu Nazeer, a 24-year-old Free Syrian Army fighter, stands in his damaged apartment in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, on December 9, 2013. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh) #
A Syrian patient, wounded in the ongoing violence in his country, who does not want to be identified, covers his face as he sits on a hospital bed at Ziv hospital, in the Israeli town of Safed, on October 31, 2013. He was transported by the Israeli army through the Quneitra ceasefire line crossing on the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Since the beginning of the war in Syria, more than 300 Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images) #
A sheet shields a damaged road from the view of snipers in Sheikh Maksoud, Aleppo, on September 26, 2013. (Reuters/Molhem Barakat) #
Free Syrian Army fighters fire a home-made rocket towards forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, on October 25, 2013. (Reuters/Aref Hretani) #
Damaged shoes lie beside a pool of blood on a school playground, after a "barrel bomb" (explosive-laden barrel) allegedly dropped by pro-government forces landed in the yard of a local school in a neighborhood held by rebel forces in Aleppo, on December 16, 2013. (Mohammed Al-Khatieb/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Free Syrian Army fighter near heavily-damaged Al-Moalimeen tower in the Jobar neighborhood frontline in Damascus, on November 30, 2013. (Reuters/Rafat beram) #

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