The people of Damascus, the Syrian capital, and its surrounding areas say that they feel "suffocated" even as the shelling has stopped and President Bashar al-Assad retains power with Syria's civil war now entering its 11th year.
Amidst the ruins, people are not only dealing with war trauma but a flailing economy and the coronavirus pandemic, making it that much harder to pick up the pieces of their broken lives, a reporter from Kyodo News has found -- the first time that a Japanese media organization has entered Damascus since the coronavirus began spreading there last spring.
According to Assad's regime, COVID-19 has infected around 18,000 people and killed about 1,200 people, although United Nations sources estimate the actual number is several times higher.
The pandemic, compounded by Western and Arab sanctions and the economic crisis in neighboring Lebanon, has accelerated Syria's economic collapse and soaring fuel and food prices.
On a recent day, strong afternoon sunlight bathed Eastern Ghouta, east of the capital, where some of the area's former residents had returned home.
There was a long line of vehicles at a gas station in Duma, a town in ruins from the fighting. One truck driver said he had been waiting since 7 a.m. but added, "It's not just gas that we can't get. It's also food."
With Russia and Iran's support, the Assad regime regained full control of Damascus, including East Ghouta, in 2018 after a fierce battle with dissidents. The residents, who are slowly returning, realize the war is over but say that life has only gotten worse.
"Making a living now is harder than during the war," said one fruit and vegetable seller.
The Syrian pound has plummeted. It was valued at 500 Syrian pounds to the dollar during the height of the civil war but the market rate has fallen to a record low of 4,000 Syrian pounds per dollar this year. The burgeoning inflation rate has forced the greengrocer to charge customers five to 50 times more for his fruit and vegetables, he says.
People stricken by poverty queued for hours to buy bread. A 36-year-old father, who works in the cleaning industry, says he has been unable to purchase his three children meat or eggs for a year and a half.
And even though coronavirus cases have been on the rise, mask-less people crowd markets searching for cheap food items.
A record 60 percent of Syrians, or 12.4 million people, are food insecure, the United Nation's World Food Programme said in February, with around 3.1 million added in one year.
Some of the Syrian people's ire is aimed at Europe and the United States for the sanctions imposed to punish the Assad regime for cracking down on protestors in 2011, which precipitated the war and quickly drew in multiple players, including the United States, Iran and Russia. It is a sentiment shared by Assad's regime.
"The people who are affected the most are us citizens," said a 65-year-old homemaker living in Yarmouk, which had been held until 2018 by the Islamic State, the terror organization that had attempted to take advantage of Syria's civil war to gain territory.
But the biggest cause of hardship in the capital has been the economic crisis in Lebanon, while the stagnation of the international economy due to the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated people's woes. Even though there appeared to be a glimmer of hope with the war ceasing in the capital, a different predicament has emerged with no end in sight.
Resignation rather than outrage seems to be the overwhelming emotion gripping the lives of many Syrian citizens.
"I am too tired to be sad or angry," said one Damascus man.