Editor's note: CNN's Arwa Damon is reporting from inside Syria , where the government has been placing restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all. Residents and opposition activists say they fear for their lives as shelling and snipers leave them trapped.
CNN is not disclosing Damon's location for her safety. Below are dispatches from her on what she's seeing and hearing from residents in the area.
It’s an incredibly intense situation here. It’s also incredibly emotional. Anger is running at an all-time high, as are frustration and desperation. People that we've been talking to, every single one of them has some sort of horrific nightmare or story, and some of them are still too afraid to talk about it publicly with their names attached to it.
One man we met, he had four members of his family executed as government forces, he said, were raiding their village. And he wanted to tell the story – he wanted to put out the images of loved ones. He was afraid because he said at the same time his uncle had been detained.
A lot of the younger generation, we’re talking to university students, they've all had to drop out and people repeatedly keep expressing how difficult it is for them to try to keep going, because they’re quite simply exhausted and they have lost so many loved ones.
Every single step that they take of every single day involves a phenomenal amount of plotting, whether it's something simple like trying to get a loaf of bread or something more complicated like trying to get someone who’s been wounded to some sort of medical care.
In the areas where the government crackdown is at its worst, people say there are snipers positioned on every single street corner. You could hardly cross a main thoroughfare without coming across a government sniper. And then of course there are all of the tanks and the government checkpoints.
What is quite interesting is how the varied opposition members have managed to set up information networks. They’re able to disseminate government (troop) positions and information fairly quickly.
We were witness to one bit of information that came through, where someone had gotten information via a network of just passing word on and having people jump on motorcycles to try to get it to the next village over, about a mass movement of government tanks.
That of course, as you can imagine, sparked widespread panic, because people did not know initially where (the tanks) were headed. But then a defector who had defected from that particular convoy showed up at this location, and he informed people of where the convoy was heading. And they were able to inform those people at that location of the government’s location as well.
On that level, there is in place a fairly sophisticated way of trying to get information out, but at the same time, it’s fairly primitive – because you have to remember that for most of the time, there is no cell phone or landline network to try to call people. So it’s all about trying to get word of mouth as fast as possible from one village, from one neighborhood to the other.
CNN asked local residents where they stand on the current situation and if the opposition thinks it can topple this regime.
They believe at the end of the day, at some point in time, who knows when, the regime is going to fall – that quite simply, they cannot go back, and Syria will not go back, to the way that it was.
But one young activist that I was speaking to put it this way: He said, “If there is military intervention, then yes, there will be a lot of bloodshed, but it’s going to be over a lot quicker. And if there isn’t military intervention, there is going to be even more bloodshed, and it’s going to take a lot longer to bring down the regime.”
What a lot of people are understanding and accepting at this stage is that this is going to be a bloody battle, that more lives are going to be lost, and that perhaps the bigger challenge for Syria too is going to be after the regime topples.