In a flagrant violation of the agreed-upon ceasefire, the Syrian government launched a heavy offensive on rebel-held Wadi Barada valley in the final days of December. Residents have been deprived of running water and electricity and are being bombarded by hundreds of missiles and barrel bombs.
An estimated 5.5 million people, including two million children, have been cut off from running water for over three weeks in Damascus and its surroundings, the longest cut Syria's capital has seen. Intense fighting damaged the water infrastructure for the two main drinking water sources for Damascus.
"Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House" revolved around the central role of the coffee house in the worlds of both 18th Century Leipzig and Damascus, uncovering cross-cultural influences between two cities which sit 3000 km. apart.
Collapsed buildings are everywhere. Families huddle in the ruins, while aid groups struggle to keep up with people's basic needs for food, water, medical care and shelter. I can see humanitarian aid is helping, but it is never a long-term solution. So much more is needed.
The international community has not only failed to live up to its responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes but its very inaction has encouraged escalating criminality by the Assad regime. With the crossing of the red line on chemical weapons use refocusing international attention on Syria, we risk losing credibility -- and more Syrians risk losing their lives -- should we not start now taking meaningful action to protect civilians in Syria. To that end, it is critically important that any intervention adhere to the requirements of international law.
He called me over and took my documents and after looking at them he asked me to wait while he used his walkie-talkie to summon a colleague. He suggested, and then insisted, that I sit on a plastic chair while we waited.
The stormy winter weather that affected a number of areas in the Middle East last week also struck Damascus. For people here the inclement weather is especially hard to bear given the drastic shortage of heating fuel and cooking gas, and the worsening situation with regard to electricity.
The Syrian government has now established a permanent network of surveillance over the old city. One night recently I was strolling through the souq and saw a figure walking slowly ahead of me in the poorly-lit passage, an object dangling from their arm. When I drew within a few paces, he started and turned quickly to face me, watching me closely as I passed.
The Sunday before last, a bomb exploded in Bab Touma Square in the middle of the morning, killing 13 people and injuring several others. While bombings of government targets and public spaces have become increasingly common over the last few months, this attack constituted the first of its kind in the old city since Syria's political crisis began in March last year.
To the East of the old city there is a busy road that tanks and other military vehicles often drive along as they travel between the nearest base and whichever suburb they happen to be fighting in on a given day. Recently, a friend saw a tank drive down this road in a convoy with some other vehicles. On its side its crew had had spray-painted, in big white Arabic letters, "Assad! -- or we destroy the country."