One of Goran Tomasevic's photos of the fighting at the Ain Tarma checkpoint, 30 January 2013
Rebel fighters in Damascus are disciplined, skilled and brave.
In a month on the frontline, I saw them defend a swathe of suburbs in the Syrian capital, mount complex mass attacks, manage logistics, treat their wounded --- and die before my eyes.
But as constant, punishingly accurate, mortar, tank and sniper fire attested, President Bashar al-Assad's soldiers on the other side, often just a room or a grenade toss away, are also well-drilled, courageous --- and much better armed.
So while the troops were unable to dislodge brigades of the Free Syrian Army from devastated and depopulated neighborhoods just east of the city centre --- and indeed made little effort to do so --- there seems little immediate prospect of the rebels overrunning Assad's stronghold. The result is bloody stalemate.