Conflict hits Damascus daily life
- 16 January 2013
- From the section World
The fabled city of Damascus, the sweet "City of Jasmine", is now being squeezed by an ever-encroaching war.
Queues for the basics of life - bread and fuel - grow ever longer.
The daily soundtrack is the thud of government artillery, the crackle of gun fire.
The skyline is scratched by plumes of black or white smoke.
Fighting reached the suburbs of this capital months ago and you can increasingly feel it in the centre.
This week, Syria's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Faisal Mekdad told me there would be "hopefully, very good news very soon" that government forces would succeed in driving out rebel fighters.
Battles are being waged on the edges of this city which have been under ferocious government assault. Many neighbourhoods now lie in ruin.
But Mr Mekdad insisted there were no opposition fighters in Damascus itself.
The city centre, threaded by a shifting maze of security checks, is in government hands.
Cafes sell steaming coffee in stylish cups, civil servants dutifully go to work, and children are sitting their exams.
But bombers still manage to infiltrate the heart of the capital on a regular basis.
And, in one neighbourhood this week, we were surprised to find fighters of the Free Syrian Army openly carrying guns and running an office with their own fax machine and flag.
While the government does battle in more strategic neighbourhoods, this one for the moment seems to have slipped from their grasp.