Photo Essay

  • Smoke rises over the Saif Al Dawla district of Aleppo, Syria on Oct. 2, 2012. Months of devastating violence in Syria have left their mark everywhere including entire blocks of apartment buildings that have been shattered, their top floors reduced to pancaked concrete.
  • A rebel fighter claims victory after he fires a shoulder-fired missile toward a building where Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were hiding during heavy clashes in the Jedida district of Aleppo on Nov. 4, 2012. The uprising against al-Assad started with peaceful demonstrations in March 2011, but has since morphed into a bloody civil war.
  • Aida cries as she recovers from severe injuries after the Syrian Army shelled her home in Idlib, northern Syria on March 10, 2012. Aida’s husband and two of her children were killed during the attack.
  • A family crying outside a hospital after surviving a strike by Syrian regime forces in the Sheikh Fares district of Aleppo on Sept. 18, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter shoots his gun towards government troops as rebel fighters belonging to the Liwa al-Tawhid carry out a military operation at the Moaskar front line, one of the battlefields in the Karm al-Jabal neighborhood of Aleppo on Oct. 24, 2012.
  • A man carrying grocery bags tries to dodge sniper fire as he runs through an alley near a Free Syrian Army checkpoint in Aleppo on Sept. 14, 2012. Syrian regime forces used fighter jets and helicopter gunships to pound the city and province of Aleppo, where fierce clashes raged around a military airport, monitors said.
  • A man carries his wounded daughter outside a hospital in the city of Aleppo on Sept. 18, 2012 while Syrian troops shelled several districts in the city and clashed with rebels.
  • A man removes debris after a mortar shell hit a street killing several people in the Bustan Al-Qasr district of Aleppo on Dec. 17, 2012.
  • A man covers his face as he cries after being wounded by a mortar launched by regime forces in Aleppo on Oct. 21, 2012. Hopes of a truce being implemented in war-torn Syria during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holidays were “slim,” the Arab League said, as heavy fighting erupted in Damascus and on northern battlefields.
  • A rebel sniper aims at a Syrian army position, seen with another rebel fighter reflected in a mirror, from a building in Aleppo on Oct. 29, 2012. Syrian fighter jets pounded rebel areas across the country on that Monday with airstrikes that anti-regime activists called the most widespread bombing in a single day since Syria’s troubles started.
  • Smoke rises from a petrol station following a mortar attack as Syrian women walk on a rainy day in Arqub neighborhood of Aleppo on Oct. 25, 2012. The bloody conflict in Syria started as peaceful protests for reform in the wake of the Arab Spring, but morphed into a bitter civil war.
  • A Syrian man holds a crying girl as he gestures following an air strike by government forces on the Sahour neighborhood in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on March 6, 2014.
  • In the city of Aleppo, a Free Syrian Army fighter rests in a burned out building after a morning of clashes with Syrian President Bashar al-Assads’ army on Oct. 3, 2012.
  • A man looks through a window at the body of a man lying in a truck outside a hospital in Aleppo on Oct. 21, 2012 as heavy fighting erupted in Damascus and on northern battlefields.
  • Two men grieving on a street in Aleppo on Oct. 3, 2012 as the soldiers loyal to the regime continued their relentless military campaign to regain control of the city.
  • A Syrian rebel gestures as he waits to be treated for his wounds at a hospital in the Sheikh Fares district of Aleppo on Sept. 18, 2012 as Syrian troops shelled several districts in Aleppo and clashed with rebels.
  • Kamal, the father of an eight-year-old girl who was fatally wounded cries while being treated in a local hospital in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo on Oct. 31, 2012. His  family was wounded, and daughter killed by fire from a Syrian government forces’ jet at the Karm Al-Aser neighborhood of eastern Aleppo.
  • A wounded Syrian man is treated in a makeshift hospital after artillery mortar shells landed on the opposite side of a bread shop operated by the civilian arm of the Free Syrian Army in the Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo on Dec. 3, 2012.
  • As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army steped up its military campaign to regain control of Aleppo, a severely wounded baby is medically treated by the small staff of doctors in one of the city’s last standing hospitals on Oct. 3, 2012.
  • A family escapes from fierce fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government troops in Idlib, northern Syria on March 10, 2012.
  • Two Syrian rebels take sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karm al-Jabal in central Aleppo on Oct. 18, 2012. Violence persisted on Oct. 19 with rebels and loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad locked in battle for the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway linking Syria’s two biggest cities.
  • A Syrian man cries while holding the body of his brother, killed by Syrian Army shelling, near Dar al-Shifa hospital in Aleppo on Oct. 11, 2012.
  • A wounded woman still in shock leaves Dar Al Shifa hospital in Aleppo on Sept. 20, 2012. More than 100,000 people have been killed since the start of Syria’s conflict over two years ago.
  • A young boy, Ahmed, mourns his father Abdulaziz Abu Ahmed Khrer, during his funeral in Idlib, northern Syria on March 8, 2012. Khrer was killed by a Syrian Army sniper.
  • Residents run from a fire at a gasoline and oil shop in Aleppo's Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood on Oct. 20, 2013. Witnesses said the fire was caused by a bullet fired by a sniper loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Karaj al-Hajez crossing, a passageway separating Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr, which is under the rebels' control and Al-Masharqa neighborhood, an area controlled by the regime.
  • In Aleppo’s Karm al-Jabal district, Fouad Al Bussan, a member of the Free Syrian Army and a seasoned sniper is ordered by his superiors to shoot at anything that moves in front of him on Oct. 23, 2012.
  • Syrian civilians carry their belongings from their homes destroyed during clashes between the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army and Syrian soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad in the town of Hejeira, which Syrian troops captured near Damascus, Syria on Nov. 21, 2013.
  • A Syrian rebel at their headquarters in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib on Dec. 12, 2012. The Syrian rebel chief, a defected army general who spent months in exile, says he has begun operating inside Syria to unite autonomous anti-regime militias for what he hopes will be the final push against President Bashar al-Assad.
  • A member of the Free Syrian Army holds his weapon as he sits on a sofa in the middle of a street in Deir al-Zor on April 2, 2013.
  • A crowd gathers after a bomb explosion in the Mezzeh 86 area of Damascus, in this photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA, on Nov. 5, 2012. The bomb attack in the western district of Damascus killed 11 people and wounded dozens more, including children, Syrian state media and an activist group reported.
  • A man runs as he carries a child who survived from what activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, at al-Ferdaws in Aleppo on Jan. 21, 2014.
  • A young Syrian boy holds a bird in his hand that he said was injured in a government airstrike that hit the neighborhood of Ansari, in Aleppo on Feb. 3, 2013.
  • An apartment destroyed by tank shelling is seen in a building in the Karm al-Jabel neighborhood after several days of intense clashes between rebel fighters and the Syrian army in Aleppo on Oct. 28, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters carry the body of a comrade killed by the Syrian Army in Azaz on Dec. 13, 2012.
  • In Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha distrcit, Mohammed Jaffar kisses the Koran in a sign of respect to his religion on Oct. 22, 2012. Jaffar is a 17-year-old Free Syrian Army fighter, making him the youngest member the Mutasm Bellah Katiba.
  • A Syrian woman walks past a destroyed building while reaching a food distribution center in Aleppo on Sept. 13, 2012. Syrian fighter jets and tanks pounded the northern city as witnesses reported rebels advancing into the key contested central Midan district.
  • A displaced Syrian boy is seen at the top of an olive tree near the Azaz camp for displaced people, north of Aleppo province on Feb. 22, 2013. According to Syrian activists the number of refugees in the Azaz camp has grown by 3,000 in the last weeks due to heavier shelling by government forces.
  • A Syrian refugee, crosses illegally into Turkey on the border in Cilvegozu, Turkey on Dec. 20, 2012.
  • The body of a Syrian Army soldier lies on the ground after heavy clashes with government forces at a military academy besieged by the rebels in Tal Sheer on Dec. 16, 2012.
  • Syrian refugees cross from Syria to Turkey via the Orontes River, near the village of Hacipasa, Turkey on Dec. 8, 2012.
  • A Syrian refugee woman is seen between a line of tents in a refugee camp near Azaz, north of Aleppo province, Syria on Feb 17, 2013.
  • Syrian army solider defectors are seen in a temporary prison as Free Syrian Army fighters investigate their identity in the village of Azaz on Dec. 10, 2012.
  • Young Syrians dance at a popular bar in the Old City in Damascus, Syria on Oct. 24, 2013. While most people in the capital lock themselves fearfully in their homes as the night falls, the joyful crowd of young Syrians dressed in tight jeans and designer clothes go wild with the sound of local Arab hits, clapping and dancing and deafening the booms of the artillery outside.
  • Free Syrian Army soldier shoots his machine gun against Syrian Army troops in Saif Al Dawle district in Aleppo on Oct. 2, 2012.
  • View through a broken window of damaged buildings from shelling in Aleppo on Oct. 21, 2012. With death lurking around every corner, the survival instincts of Aleppo’s population are being stretched to the limit every day as the battle between Syria’s rebels and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for the country’s largest city stretches over many destructive month.
  • Civilians react after an airstrike by the regime in the neighborhood of Al-Sukary in Aleppo on March 20, 2013.
  • Pigeons lie on the ground after dying from what activists say is the use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in the Damascus suburbs of Arbeen on Aug. 24, 2013.
  • A child in one of Aleppo’s hospitals is treated after being wounded by shrapnel on Sept. 30, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army commander in Aleppo sits down after a suprise attack by regime forces destroyed a key fighting position along the front line on Oct. 2, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters hold their weapons during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo on Jan. 20, 2013.
  • A man points a flashlight at the body of a man killed by Syrian army shelling at a graveyard in Aleppo on Oct. 13, 2012.
  • Women, who are part of the Sawt al-Haq (Voice of Rights), stand with their weapons as they undergo military training in Aleppo on Feb.17, 2013. These women are undergoing military training to form the Nazek Obeid group as part of the Sawt al-Haq battalion, which is based on the frontline of Aleppo's Sheikh Saeed neighborhood.
  • A boy caries on with his work at a car wash in Aleppo amidst ongoing violent clashes in the city on Feb. 27, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter displays a damaged ordinance in Aleppo on Jan. 15, 2013. Two explosions struck the main university in the northern Syrian city causing an unknown number of casualties, state media and anti-government activists said.
  • A Syrian girl from Aleppo looks outside a window of an abandoned building where she and several families took refuge due to fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in the northeastern city of Qamishli on Feb. 28, 2013.
  • Displaced Syrian children show their toy marbles while playing in the Azaz camp for displaced people, north of Aleppo province, Syria on Feb. 22, 2013.
  • A Syrian rebel fighter plays football in the street in the Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood of Aleppo on Jan. 2, 2013. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus on Jan 30, 2013. The attack happened as the rebels regrouped after the sniper attack, the shell struck the deserted building where they were sheltering, sending shattered concrete and dust raining down on them.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus on Jan. 30, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus on Jan. 30, 2013.
  • 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, 2013.
  • A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. 
  • Cars abandoned by Yazidi refugees who fled Iraq for Syria, Aug. 18, 2014.
  • An injured man is carried on a stretcher at a field hospital in Douma, Syria, Sept. 3, 2014. Activists said forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad shelled various locations on Wednesday, including a market in Douma, and in al-Nashabiyeh city, in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus.
  • A Syrian woman makes her way through debris following an air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo on July 15, 2014.
  • A fighter from the Nureddine al-Zinki unit — a moderate Syrian opposition faction affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and made up of former Syrian Free Army fighters at odds with the radical Islamic State jihadists — checks a WWII Soviet-era Mosin Nagant sniper rifle at the Sakhur frontline, near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Sept. 11, 2014. U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah have agreed on “the need for increased training and equipping of the moderate Syrian opposition,” the White House said in a statement on Sept. 10.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon on one of the front lines of Wadi Al-Dayf camp in the southern Idlib countryside, Sept. 14, 2014.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters rest inside a damaged room, during what activists said were clashes with forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Al-Amiriya near the Artillery School in Aleppo, Sept. 16, 2014.
  • Soldiers from forces of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad walk on the Zalin hills, after saying they have regained control of the hill and farms surrounding it, in the northern Hama countryside, Sept. 16, 2014. Syria’s army declared a victory against insurgents last week when it pushed back their advance toward pro-government towns in the west of the country. But a month earlier the strategic area did not even appear at risk. The campaign near Hama against al Qaeda-linked fighters and other groups shows how the Syrian military can quickly redeploy its forces to push back enemies using its superior fire power. But it also shows how the army is spread thinly in Syria, leaving at risk even areas of vital importance to the government.
  • In this image made from video released by the U.S. Navy on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, missiles bound for Syrian Islamic State group targets are launched off of a U.S. Navy ship.
  • A handout picture released by the US Navy shows the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) launching a Tomahawk cruise missile against IS (Islamic State) targets in Syria, as seen from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in the Arabian Gulf, 23 September 2014. 
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Syria’s tragic descent

Updated

March 15, 2014, marked the third anniversary of the start of anti-government protests in Syria. Since the uprising began in the spring of 2011, Syria has plunged into a devastating civil war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed. More than 9 million people have been uprooted from their homes, according to the United Nations, which stopped updating its death toll estimates in January. 

The regime of Bashar al-Assad has battled armed rebel groups across the country eager to end more than four decades of Assad family rule.

The brutal, ceaseless violence has destroyed some of the longest-inhabited cities on earth, crushed a once stable economy, and maimed countless scores of men, women and children. Explosions, missile strikes, tank and gunfire have taken the lives of more than 100,000 civilians.

In August 2013, the Syrian government launched a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held suburb in the capital of Damascus. More than 1,400 people, including more than 400 children, died of Sarin poisoning. The attack prompted international outrage and a deal among world powers to send United Nations inspectors into Syria to destroy the country’s deadly chemical arsenal.

Yet the war continues unabated.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography.