Intense clashes are continuing between troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces in Damascus, Aleppo and along Syria's border with Turkey, even as the United Nations releases a report that notes the fighting will leave Syrians hungry for a year to come.
Heavy fighting is reported around the northern industrial city of Aleppo, as rebel forces fight for control of Syria's commercial hub. Battles are also raging along the Syrian border with Turkey, with blasts near the town of Azaz, held by rebels.
The area contains a central artery for opposition forces moving in and out of Aleppo, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away. It is also a route for refugees who are fleeing to safety in Turkey.
Syrian government forces are continuing to kill unarmed civilians, meanwhile, shelling residential areas in Damascus and elsewhere. Residents and activist organizations reported at least 35 people, mostly civilians, were killed by government troops in Damascus on Wednesday. "The tanks and troops left around 4:00 p.m. When the streets were clear we found the bodies of at least 35 men,” a resident in the Jdeidet Artouz suburb southwest of Damascus told Reuters by phone.
Meanwhile, banks in the Syrian capital and its commercial center are also beginning to struggle with the challenges faced by their smaller counterparts around the country since the civil war began last year. Managers managed to keep their branches open, often despite the violence raging around them, in order to provide a place for customers to deposit their money. Desperate citizens continued to patronize the financial institutions and deposit their funds in the banks because they had no safer option.
But even money in the bank may not feed the population, according to a report released jointly on Thursday by the World Food Program and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The Syrian agricultural sector has lost $1.8 billion this year due to the 16-month-old civil war, with the wheat and barley harvest particularly affected. Up to 3 million Syrians are likely to need food, and assistance with crops and livestock in the next 12 months, the report warned.
Dated June 2012, the report cited a joint assessment carried out by the U.N. and the Syrian government. It said the wheat harvest was delayed in Dera'a, rural Damascus, Homs and Hama due to a lack of labor and the reluctance of owners to rent out their farm machinery.