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Harrowing photos show last seconds of life on Syria's front line

GRAPHIC WARNING: Contains images which some viewers may find disturbing.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

A Free Syrian Army fighter looks at his comrade as he gets shot by sniper fire during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan 30. The Free Syrian Army fighter on the left was wounded moments later. The fighter on the right died soon after being shot.

Photographer Goran Tomasevic has been covering the conflict in Syria for Reuters, offering the world a view into the historic city of Damascus, once strictly off-limits to journalists without a government escort. While it has become tragically routine to see violent and gruesome stories from the country’s civil war, Tomasevic’s dramatic photos from today’s front lines stand out. The series captures not only the last seconds of a rebel’s life before he is shot by a sniper, but also show as the body is taken back to his friends, while under attack. We see an intimate narrative that examines the realities of war for the rebels.

Tomasevic tells the harrowing story on the Reuters Photographers Blog:

One moment, I heard two incoming shots. I was already aiming my camera on these two Syrian rebels. I heard the scream and saw one of them get shot. He was still alive as I was shooting but dying as he was carried away.

There was intensive fighting as the rebel group I was with in a Damascus neighborhood was trying to overtake a government checkpoint some 50 meters away. There was another group of rebels who were supposed to fire rocket propelled grenades from a further distance away from the checkpoint. After that, the group I was with was meant to engage the soldiers manning the checkpoint.

At the checkpoint I could clearly see sandbags and tanks. I didn’t look at the tanks anymore because I needed to take cover. I pulled back a little to look for the best position to take pictures and how to be covered in the best possible way.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Free Syrian Army fighters take position just before they were hit by Syrian Army sniper fire during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30. The fighter on the right died soon after, while his comrade was wounded.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Free Syrian Army fighters carry a comrade who was shot by sniper fire during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

There were two rebels next to me and two rebels across the street. A couple of sniper shots were fired. They were clearly sniper shots, not Ak’s, as they came one by one. I could clearly see through the lens when they actually shot the rebel. The rebel next to him was also shot and injured but he should recover after being hit in the stomach.

After the rebel was killed they pulled back maybe 20-30 meters and I took pictures of the body being taken out. The hole where the rebels had to drag the body through was really small and it was difficult to drag him through. There was a lot of fire as the rebels dragged him away.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

A tank fired a couple of shells onto the top of the building and rubble fell down around us.

The rebels kept on fighting for a few hours. It was heavy, with a lot of RPGs and attacks on multiple sites. They pulled back after a couple of hours of intensive fighting and fired some mortar shells.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

A Free Syrian Army fighter fires a rocket propelled grenade during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures in front of a burning barricade during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

 From what I’ve seen the fighting is up and down. The lines between the Free Syrian Army and the government army are pretty clear. Since I’ve been here it’s literally been going house by house. The other day there was a rebel next to me who was struck by shrapnel. The rebels and the government forces are close enough to be throwing hand grenades at one another. You can hear them shouting at each other.

The lines seem to be pretty much the same. One day the government takes a couple of houses and then the rebels take a couple of houses again so it is pushing back and forth.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

A wounded Free Syrian Army fighter cries after hearing that his friend died in a mission in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

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