Incredible photographs show the horrifying moment a government tank blast killed three rebel fighters in the battered Syrian city of Aleppo.
The series of haunting images tell a tragic tale, first showing a calm street scene, then the terrifying moment the tank fire lands, followed by the chaotic aftermath of the hit.
The powerful photographs, which shine a harsh light on the brutality of daily lives for Syrians under President Bashar Assad’s regime, were captured by Tracey Shelton, a correspondent for the GlobalPost.
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Preparation: Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo manning a checkpoint grab their weapons in readiness, just seconds before their position is targeted by an army tank
Moment they died: The photographer captures the split second the tank shell hit the check-point killing three men as it detonates
Shelton wrote about her experience of getting the photographs, explaining how she spent time camping with members of the Noor Den al-Zenke battalion who man a block of streets which now form the final battle line between government troops and opposition forces.
She described how on the morning of the attack, the men were relaxed and joked around as they cleared up the area after a tank attack from the previous day.
During that attack, the tank had fired too short, she explained. But this time, the assault took the men by surprise and killed three men.
Shelton describes in heart-rendering detail how they ran back from the clouds of smoke and waited for others to escape through the debris.
No time to move: The soldier in the foreground remains rooted to the spot as his three comrades are obliterated by the blast
Survivor: This man was the only person who managed to escape, running away from the smoke-filled scene
'As the cloud of smoke engulfed the street we ran back and frantically waited for the others to escape through the cloud of smoke and debris. But no one came. In that split second, three men were reduced to broken, bleeding masses,' she writes.
The harrowing photos come as the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that more than 26,000 people have been killed in the country since the revolt began in March last year - more than two-thirds of them civilians.
It has been another deadly week for Aleppo residents with government forces launching a devastating air strike on Monday.
Local residents say the attack was launched by Syrian government forces onto a densely populated area of the city and that further assaults followed.
It is believed that in one of the deadly attacks this week, seven children were killed.
Rebels scored a major victory late Friday when they seized part of the Hanano barracks, one of the army's largest posts in the area, activists said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels were able to reach the edge of the barracks, which house more 2,000 than soldiers including many reinforcements brought from other parts of Syria.
Aleppo activist Mohammed Saeed said rebels also were able to free scores of detainees from the sprawling barracks, which is close to the city center.
Rebels also attacked a main army checkpoint linking Aleppo with Turkey, where many Syrians have taken refuge from the fighting. The Observatory said six rebels were killed in the attack.
Haunting: Having survived the deadly blast, the soldier checks his injuries
The Observatory and another activist group known as the Local Coordination Committees also reported fresh clashes in the Damascus neighborhood of Tadamon, claiming an army helicopter had been shot down.
Syria's civil war witnessed a major turning point in August when Assad's forces began widely using air power for the first time to crush the revolt. Several warplanes and helicopters have been shot down over the past weeks.
The fighting also reached Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet for most of the 18-month-old revolt. While the military largely was able to quell a rebel offensive launched in Damascus in July, it is still struggling to stamp out the push to take control of the northern city of Aleppo.
Today a major water pipeline in Syria's largest city was damaged during intense fighting, leaving several Aleppo neighborhoods without drinking water. The Syrian government and opposition traded blame over the damage to the water pipeline in the central neighborhood of Midan.
The LCC and Aleppo-based activists said a Syrian army warplane hit the pipeline with a missile.
The Observatory said the pipeline was hit as warplanes bombed the area while clashes raged on the ground, but it said it was not immediately clear exactly what caused the damage.
'Water was completely cut from several neighborhoods in the city,' Saeed said via Skype. 'Electricity was cut and now water. This will only increase the suffering of people.'
Devastation: Three men died in this particular attack; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that more than 26,000 people have been killed in the country since the revolt began in March last year
Aleppo's governor Mohammed Wahid Akkad said two water pumps were subjected to an act of sabotage by 'terrorists,' the term used by the regime for the rebels.
Akkad was quoted by state-run news agency SANA as saying that water was cut in the neighborhoods of Midan, Suleimaniyeh and Aziziyeh and work is under way to repair them.
Amateur videos posted online showed one of Midan's streets after it was turned into a small river by the flow of water gushing from the pipeline.
The authenticity of the video and activist claims could not be independently confirmed. The regime has strictly limited independent reporting in the country.
The uprising against Assad began in March 2011, when protests calling for political change were met by a violent government crackdown by government troops. Many in the opposition took up arms, and activists say more than 23,000 people have been killed. The government says more than 4,000 security officers are among the dead.
The Observatory and the LCC also reported clashes in the Damascus suburbs as well as the northern province of Idlib, the southern province of Daraa and central Hama and Homs.
In Damascus, the Observatory reported intense fighting Saturday in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, which had been subjected to government shelling the day before.
When Syria's unrest began, the country's half-million Palestinians tried to stay on the sidelines. But in recent months, young Palestinian refugees, enraged by mounting violence and moved by Arab Spring calls for greater freedoms, have been taking to the streets and even joining the rebels.
Before the hit: Issa Aiash, 30, father of three, left, his 17-year-old brother Ahmed, centre, and Sheihk Mamoud, 42, father of a newborn son, laugh and joke as they clean their post Saturday, explains photographer Tracey Shelton
VIDEO: Aftermath of an airstrike by the Syrian government in Aleppo which activists say killed dozens