Sreenivasan:A new wave of Syrian government air strikes on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus killed at least 22 people.It's just the latest in a week-long bombardment targeting eastern Ghouta.Human rights monitors say the air strikes are coming from both Syrian and Russian aircraft.They estimate 500 civilians, including 200 women and children, have been killed this week alone.Today, the U.N. security council approved a resolution calling for a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire. In Syria, with the support of Syrian ally, Prussia, several previous cease-fires have failed over the years-long conflict.For more on the situation in Syria, we are joined by Anne Barnard of the "New York Times." She joins us via Skype from Beirut. Let's put this in context.500 people killed in just the span of a week. I mean, these are just rough estimates. But what is responsible for this surge of violence?
Anne Barnard: Well, mainly, right now, the government is trying to take over the last couple of large rebel-held areas, and one of them is eastern Ghouta, which is just to the east of Damascus. It's really adjacent to the capital city. It's a suburb, a collection of sort of concrete block buildings and agricultural fields.Right now, the bombardment, in a sense, are just a more intense version of what's been going on year after year after year. The besieged area that people can't get out of, and the government hasn't really been able to advance much on the ground up to now, so the strategy is just to bomb the area and try to force a surrender.
Sreenivasan:You mentioned a phrase that's important there, "the people can't necessarily get out of." Because a lot of folks are going to wonder, if there is such strife going on, why don't people leave? How are people actually maintaining some semblance of life in this suburb?
Anne Barnard:I mean, the main reason they can't leave is because they physically cannot get out.This area has been surrounded by the government for years, and that siege boundary was tightened in recent months because the government took over an area where there had been an outlet for tunnels that were used for smuggling. There still wasn't exactly free movement in and out back then. You know, the war economy was such that people on both sides would profit from food and people coming and going, and it was really expensive for ordinary people. That said, there was technically a way to get out, if you wanted to. But now, even that has become much more difficult and much more expensive. And then, there's a second reason, which is that many...The government has tended to treat anyone from these areas as suspect, and anyone who has a file against them with the government-- let's say they've been a civilian activist or a fighter, even doctors who treat people on the rebel-held side or even civilians in the rebel-held areas-- are considered criminals and terrorists by the government. So, there are people who, if they enter government-held areas, they're concerned that they will be arrested and sent to the security detention centers, where there's torture and all kinds of things that they don't want to be involved with.
Sreenivasan:How are people carrying on their lives there? I mean, some of the descriptions you have and some of the photographs, it seems that a lot of it is literally underground.
Anne Barnard:Well, it depends on the area. In some areas, people have basements in their buildings, or there are tunnels that have been dug that they can stay in, underground shelters. In other areas, there are not. so, there was a town a few days ago where 43 people were killed in an air strike because they were huddling in a basement that wasn't really built to shelter people. And there are other areas where people just don't have somewhere to go underground.
Sreenivasan:All right, Anne Barnard of the "New York Times," joining us via Skype from Beirut. Thanks so much. Thank you.