Photo Of 8-Year-Old Syrian Rebel 'Ahmed' Smoking A Cigarette With His Rifle Is Heartbreaking

03/29/2013 06:20 pm ET

It's a picture that is both haunting and heartbreaking.

Dressed in red, an 8-year-old Syrian boy identified as Ahmed stares into the camera of American-born photojournalist Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini. The child's face is partially obscured by the smoke of a lit cigarette, and his small frame is dwarfed by the assault rifle slung around his shoulders.

(Story continues below) 8 year old syrian rebel

Ahmed, the 8-year-old son of a FSA fighter, stands in front of a barricade were he assists his FSA comrades in the neighborhood of Salahadeen one of Aleppo's front lines. Aleppo, Syria, on March 27 2013. (Sebastiano Tomada / Sipa USA)

Piccolomini's pint-sized "rebel" exemplifies the growing tragedy in Aleppo, a city on the front lines of Syria's ongoing civil war. The photographer has been documenting the struggle of the Free Syrian Army fighters for a series called "The Things They Carry," the New York Daily News reports.

Once the country's commercial center, Aleppo is currently divided by between soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad and the rebel forces who oppose him.

According to German filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen, conditions in the city border on unbearable, with only 30 doctors and nurses caring for hundreds of thousands of civilians. The New York Times reports that rebel areas lack electricity, water, or any sort of economic stability.

Since the fighting broke out in Syria more than two years ago, the United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed, Reuters notes.

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