In parts of Aleppo on Monday, snipers fired from roofs of buildings and artillery fire rang out, while other areas of the city are oddly normal.
CNN's Ben Wedeman and crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry.
In the besieged Aleppo neighborhood of Salaheddin, Wedeman said drivers had to dodge piles of rubble in the streets. Residents evacuating to safer neighborhoods left their homes with all the belongings they could carry, he said.
An elderly man, carrying a briefcase and a bag full of jam, said he was leaving the neighborhood to move in with his daughter.
"What kind of leader does this to his own people?" the man said as he left his home. FULL POST
As the months-long violence in Syria engulfs two key cities, Damascus and Aleppo, CNN's Ivan Watson has been traveling through villages in the area. He and the crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.
Below is an edited Q&A about what Watson has seen and heard in rebel-controlled towns near Aleppo:
CNN: We're hearing that one community in Syria - the ethnic Kurds - are beginning to take matters into their own hands. They're breaking with the regime. What are you seeing? What are the signs that this could impact the entire conflict?
WATSON: It could definitely complicate matters. The Kurds make up about 10 percent of the population, long-oppressed, even denied citizenship by the al-Assad regime. But they've largely sat out this uprising for about the past 16, 17 months. In the last week, we've seen one of the strongest of the Kurdish political factions, which is closely affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, claiming control over a number of Kurdish communities. FULL POST
Sanctions, suspensions, monitors: The international community has been trying to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis for almost a year.Â
In May, the European Union placed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and nine other senior members of his government.
As violence escalated over the following five months, a European-backed resolution condemning Syria - but lacking sanctions - was put before the U.N. Security Council in October. But permanent Security Council members Russia and China vetoed that resolution.
In November, the Arab League got involved, signaling its unhappiness with Syria by suspending its membership in the group.
On December 19, Syria signed an accord with the Arab League, saying it would withdraw armed forces from residential areas and let observers into the country. That same day, a vote in the U.N. General Assembly condemned the security crackdown.
On Saturday,Â the Arab League suspended its mission to monitor whether al-Assad was abiding by an agreement to end the crackdown, which reportedly has left thousands of civilians dead.
This week, the U.N. Security Council is considering another resolution that calls for al-Assad to transfer power. The draft resolution also demands the government end the violence, pull back its heavy weaponry from residential areas, allow monitors to operate freely, release political prisoners and allow the news media to operate.
"It is primarily a straightforward condemnation of what has transpired, a call upon the government of Syria to adhere to the commitments it made," Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said about the draft. She noted that it contains no sanctions nor does it threaten the use of force.
Russia - which maintains trade relations with Syria - has proposed its own draft U.N. resolution that assigns equal blame for the violence on both al-Assad and the opposition.
More on the challenges in Syria: