, the violence inside the country is getting worse. diplomatic efforts get under way to negotiate a political transition in Syria
"Omar" - not his real name - lives in the Al Midan neighbourhood of Damascus. He told ITV News about the situation in the capital. The following account is his own words, which have been translated from Arabic:
This week has without a doubt seen the collapse of ordinary life in Damascus. Since this morning all we have been hearing are the echoing sounds of blast and bombs across the city. Dozens of blasts have been heard mainly from Hasrasta and other suburbs. Further away the suburb of Douma has become nearly completely deserted as the shelling has continued for over a week. An estimated 200,000 people have fled the area. The city has been surrounded and shut off. Those who were able to escape are the lucky ones.
This video purports to show Government troops patrolling the streets of Al Kisweh in Damascus. ITV News cannot independently confirm the veracity or location of this footage:
Entire families are hiding out in fields and on farms away from the populated areas. These people don't know when they will be able to go back home. They only have basic supplies. The activists and locals in other areas are organising shelter and food for these people who have had to flee their neighbourhoods and homes. There is nowhere to hide now in Damascus the Army and regime gangs are targeting any neighbourhoods they can reach. Damascus is overcrowded with the influx of refugees from Homs, Douma and elsewhere. Thousands of families are camping out and trying to escape the shelling, security forces and tanks that now litter the streets everywhere.
This video claims to show gunfire in the streets of Douma today, one of the cities that refugees have fled to the capital from. Again, ITV News cannot independently verify this.
People don't go out in the streets anymore unless they really have to. After 7 or 8pm the streets are completely deserted because the Shabiha [pro-government militia] will drag anyone off the streets and you may not be seen again. It is summertime here in Damascus and the streets are usually buzzing with people until the early hours. Where possible the people are still going out to protest. There have been around 25 protests today in Damascus so far. Overall the situation is the worst we've seen it. There are many casualties and injured people hiding out in makeshift hospitals with no help.