In key Syrian city, snipers and bombing tear at fabric of daily life

As rebels and the Syrian government battle for control of Aleppo, residents tap caution – and dark humor – to survive.

The bread line

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    Syrians buy bread from a Free Syrian Army delivery after three months of intense fighting against government forces in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
    Scott Peterson/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images
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Among the most dangerous places in Aleppo are breadlines – the point where critical necessity meets highest risk, since breadlines have been regularly targeted by regime forces.

One strike this week killed 20 people in a northeast district. Violent scuffles are routine; on Thursday morning, during an intense bout of shelling, those in line at one bakery repeatedly chanted: "Open the window!"

So a mobile bread distribution organized by the FSA in the shadow of the walls of Aleppo's ancient citadel – which remains under government control – comes four days a week like a breath of fresh air. Bread is bought in Turkey, then in Aleppo it is delivered by truck and sold at cost to people living far from actual bakeries.

"This is safer because in neighborhood bakeries, people wait, and are bombed every day," says Mohamed, a taxi driver and father of five who has not worked for three months because of the fighting.

Relief and fun are palpable in this line, despite the backdrop of conflict. One older man jokes with another, his friend, by pulling at his long mustache. Smiles wreathe the faces of those jostling for a spot to collect three sacks per family. A pair of sisters, no more than 5 years old, are sent to buy their family's share.

Then word goes out to move to one side of the street to avoid snipers. Instead of stepping out of range, one man steps further into it, to make a point.

"It's normal," says Mohamed Halaby, of the sniper risk. A father of four, the clothesmaker has also been out of work for months.

"I was thinking about a good future for my children, but now the situation is different and I just think about how they can eat," says Mr. Halaby, holding his family's bread. "We are disappointed, we see blood every day, and bombs. How can we think about the future?

"At first, we thought this revolution would be short, but now it goes on and on. As people, we can't do anything ... the answer will come from outside," he continues. The US and EU, he says, "can do something, but they don't. They watch people die here, and they talk. They are waiting until all Syrians are killed before they come."

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