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Syria's City of Homs, Shattered by War

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A little more than three years ago, anti-government protests swept Syria, leading to severe crackdowns and then escalating into civil war. Homs, the third largest city in Syria, was one of a number of cities and towns besieged by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Homs became an urban battlefield, and remained so until last week when a complex truce began, allowing rebel forces to peacefully leave and the Assad government to retake full control of the city. Residents who had fled the fighting were allowed to return last week, to see their homes and recover what they can -- most of the city is now unfit for habitation, and reconstruction will be necessary on a massive scale if Homs is to become a city once again. Gathered here are many recent images, as well as a few from 2011 paired with 2014 photos taken in the same places to show the difference three years of war can make. [28 photos]

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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad walk in a street in old Homs city on May 8, 2014. Syrian forces took full control of Homs last week, a city once vibrant with pro-democracy crowds but now associated with images of ruin that epitomize the brutality of Syria's civil war. After holding the Old City of Homs for nearly two years, close to 1,200 rebel fighters boarded buses which took them out of the "capital of the revolution" in convoys on Wednesday and Thursday, activists said. They were driven to rebel-held territory outside the city under a deal agreed between the insurgents and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad walk in a street in old Homs city on May 8, 2014. Syrian forces took full control of Homs last week, a city once vibrant with pro-democracy crowds but now associated with images of ruin that epitomize the brutality of Syria's civil war. After holding the Old City of Homs for nearly two years, close to 1,200 rebel fighters boarded buses which took them out of the "capital of the revolution" in convoys on Wednesday and Thursday, activists said. They were driven to rebel-held territory outside the city under a deal agreed between the insurgents and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)
Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes in the al-Hamdeya neighborhood, after the cessation of fighting, in Homs city, on May 9, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri) #
Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes, in the ruins of Homs, on May 10, 2014. (Reuters/Ghassan Najjar) #
(1 of 2: 2011) Mourners carry coffins during the funerals of protesters killed in clashes in the Syrian city of Homs on April 18, 2011. (Reuters) #
(2 of 2: 2014) The same building seen in the distance in the previous photo, note the damaged facade, evidence of fires, and nearly all the windows broken. In this photo, Syrian civilians fill a city square as they return to Homs, on May 9, 2014. (AP Photo) #
(1 of 2: 2012) Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Homs on January 6, 2012. Note the Khalid bin al Walid Mosque in the background. (Reuters/Handout) #
(2 of 2: 2014) The battered Khalid bin al Walid Mosque, amid damaged buildings in the besieged area of Homs, on March 9, 2014. (Reuters/Yazan Homsy) #
(1 of 2: 2011) People gather during a demonstration in the Syrian city of Homs on April 18, 2011. (Reuters/Handout) #
(2 of 2: 2014) The clock tower in Homs, on May 8, 2014. Note the damaged and missing clock faces, the missing windows from the buildings in the background, and the missing air conditioning units. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri) #
Homs city in 2011. Cityscape photo taken on November 25, 2011. (Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images) #
Homs city in 2014. Syrians walk amid debris as they return to the Juret al-Shayah district of the central city of Homs on May 10, 2014, a day after the last Syrian rebels left the city's neighborhood. Rebel forces in the Old City were under government siege for nearly two years before the deal to evacuate, and regime troops shelled the area almost daily throughout. (AFP/Getty Images) #
A woman walks past a burning shop in the Maskuf market in the Old City of Homs on May 12, 2014. Syrians streamed back into the ruins of the Old City of Homs on May 10, picking through the remains of their homes and trying to come to terms with the destruction after rebel forces in the Old City were besieged for nearly two years. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
Damaged buildings and rubble in old Homs city on May 8, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri) #
Damaged domes, pictured in the besieged area of Homs on March 3, 2014. (Reuters/Yazan Homsy) #
A picture taken on May 12, 2014 shows heavily damaged buildings in a destroyed neighborhood of the Old City of Homs. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man smokes a cigarette inside a damaged house in Homs on May 13, 2014. (Reuters/Omar Sanadiki) #
Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes, after the cessation of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Homs city, on May 10, 2014. (Reuters/Ghassan Najjar) #
Rays of light shine through holes in the roof of Maskuf covered market as Syrians walk in the alleys on May 12, 2014 in the Old City of Homs. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
A deserted and damaged street filled with debris in Homs on March 9, 2014. (Reuters/Thaer Al Khalidiya) #
A picture taken on May 12, 2014 shows a heavily damaged building in a destroyed neighborhood of Homs. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
Destroyed buildings in Homs city on May 10, 2014. (Reuters/Ghassan Najjar) #
A picture taken on May 9, 2014 shows heavily damaged buildings in the Christian neighborhood of Hamidiyeh in the old city of Homs. (Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty Images) #
A picture taken on May 9, 2014 shows the damage inside Syriac Orthodox Um al-Zinar church in the Christian Hamidiyeh neighborhood of Homs. (AFP/Getty Images) #
Syrians carry belongings on May 12, 2014 in a destroyed neighborhood of Homs. Syrians have been streaming back into the ruins of the Old City of Homs since May 10, 2014, picking through the remains of their homes and trying to come to terms with the destruction. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
Debris lies on a deserted street in Homs on May 8, 2014 after Syrian government forces regained control of rebel-controlled areas. (AFP/Getty Images) #
A man takes a picture on a mobile phone along a damaged street in al-Khalidiya neighborhood in Homs on May 13, 2014. (Reuters/Omar Sanadiki) #
A fire-damaged structure and destroyed clock on Old Clock square in Homs city, photographed on May 9, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri) #
A deserted street in the old city of Homs on May 8, 2014. (AFP/Getty Images) #

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