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Life and death in Aleppo (PHOTOS)
Friday, September 7th, 2012

ALEPPO, Syria — Their names were Issa, Ahmed and Sheik Mahmoud Qasim. They were fathers and brothers. They were students, teachers and laborers.

And, last week, they were all killed by tank fire.

They are not alone. The Syrian conflict has now dragged on for 18 months and cost the lives of tens of thousands of people. The dead represent all kinds — civilians, rebel fighters, regime soldiers and officials, aid workers, activists, journalists.

Headlines that track the numbers of dead are easy to pass over when they are so frequent. But sometimes a moment is captured that communicates the tragedy of events in a way that is impossible to ignore, or forget.

In this video and photo series, GlobalPost senior correspondent Tracey Shelton tells the story of Issa, Ahmed and Qasim in the days before, and then at the very moment, they are killed in their back-alley post on the front lines of Aleppo, Syria.

On the morning of their death, the men joked as they cleaned their post from a tank attack the day before. That time, they had been prepared and the tank had fired too short. This time, the assault came with little warning.

As the cloud of smoke engulfed the street, one man took cover, frantically waiting for the others to emerge through the dust and debris. No one came. In that instant, three men were reduced to broken, bleeding masses.

After a few minutes of disorientation, a vehicle arrived to transport the bodies. The survivors washed away the blood and flesh in a heartbreaking clean up.

New fighters came to take their posts. And the battle continued.

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From left to right: Issa Aiash, 30, father of three, his young brother Ahmed, 17, and Sheihk Mamoud, 42, father of a newborn son. They laugh and joke as they clean their post on a backstreet of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, on a Saturday afternoon.

(Tracey Shelton - GlobalPost)
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A call comes through that a tank was spotted nearby. The men grab their weapons.

(Tracey Shelton - GlobalPost)
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Within seconds, the tank blast strikes.

(Tracey Shelton - GlobalPost)
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Smoke and debris then fill the street — covering me and the camera in dust.

(Tracey Shelton - GlobalPost)
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This man escaped the blast.

(Tracey Shelton - GlobalPost)
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He escaped with injuries.

(Tracey Shelton - GlobalPost)
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It took several minutes before the dust cleared enough to check for more survivors. There were none.

(Tracey Shelton - GlobalPost)
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It's a lovely thing when shared traditions unite so many different people.
Organizers will now submit their claim for a new record to Guinness World Records, which is expected to rule on it within two months.