From Akram, the Angry Arab correspondent in Syria:
"All quiet on Damascus front… Three days of relative calm in the Syrian capital after the government forces pushed the rebels deep in Al-Ghouta, a green agricultural belt surrounding Damascus from the south and east, where brutal, but rather forgotten clashes are taking place. Sounds of shelling and clashes, on the rhythm of which the residents of Damascus were living, are rarely heard. The streets are overcrowded and dominated by the usual traffic disorder and the deafening noise of car horns. It seemed that people are trying to take advantage of this limited period of silence before the war is to knock their doors once again. Even the security men, with their paramilitary look, supervising the many checkpoints that cut apart the city, seem a little bit relaxed, smiling, joking and allowing the cars to go, without even, in many cases, asking for the passengers IDs.
Nevertheless, the crisis hasn't simply vanished, not even temporarily. One can discover its existence by just watching the small details around him. The mere presence of the checkpoints is enough to remind us that we're living an emergency, months after the emergency status in Syria was, ironically, "lifted". The streets that have been closed because an intelligence branch sits there is another evidence.
The public parks are full of displaced families that can be seen spreading their few things on the grass: here you see a young mother cleaning her baby child, and there a man preparing the tea using a portable gas stove or children playing and screaming delightfully in celebration of a "normal life" that they have missed for long time, while a security man with plainclothes who isn't trying to conceal his identity wandering in the park to make sure that those strangers won't make any trouble. Their poor appearance contrasts with the clean look of the affluent neighborhoods that "host" them. Residents of these neighborhoods, many of them have never heard of towns like Nashabieh, Deir Salman or Deir Al-Assafeer before the eruption of the crisis, let alone visiting them, are little afraid of them, they try not to make any physical contact with them because of what they hear about those troublemakers. Syrian societies are getting to know each other in the most unpleasant way.
Walking the streets, you would be surprised with the huge number of beggars, mostly children, with threadbare clothes and dirty faces, following you persistently seeking of the few pennies that you might give them.
Another indication of the crisis, hovering in the atmosphere, is the stress that seethes the people's hearts, those hidden feelings that explode suddenly when you don't expect. Don't fix it, a taxi driver, Palestinian in his sixties, told me, angrily, indicating the seat belt. No more seat belts… I lived 9 wars and 11 military coups but never saw such a number of victims, never feel such a panic. I haven't understood, then, what has the safety belt to do with wars and military coups, but I obeyed without saying a single word.
The school season coming in few days is pressing heavily the government, not only in provinces where the situation is too bad for schools to open their doors, but also in more stable places like Damascus where many schools are occupied by refugees. The Syrian minister of education said that the school year will not be postponed under any circumstances. The government is calling for the displaced to return to their homes and there are disturbing rumors that the government is going to evacuate the schools by force if necessary. Yesterday, the semi-official TV Addounia reported that Ain Tarma, Zamalka, Irbin and Saqba, towns located near Damascus in Eastern Ghouta and almost deserted due to the fighting, are "relatively safe"...
Few moments of peace? Not entirely… The clashes are still alive in quarters, such as Al-Tadamon and reportedly in Al-Kaboun, that it has been said to be "cleansed from the terrorist groups" where the rebels are still practicing the same old Hit-and-Run tactic against the army units and the popular committees, civilian groups armed and run under the regime's auspices. Yesterday, Jaramana, a Rural Damascus town connected to Damascus, that is inhabited by middle- class families, mostly Druze and Christians, was, once again, crucified by a car bomb that killed 9 and dozens wounded. And once again, the perpetrator is unknown but the objective is, for sure, very known".