A year ago the villages of Jebel Akrad were home to living, breathing communities. Tucked into the mountain range in Syria's northwestern corner, the village squares were occupied by old men drinking strong coffee and puffing on cigarettes...
Far from the conference corridors at the Geneva 2 talks - the corridors of the UNHCR's Beirut office are bustling. Outside in the morning sun hundreds of Syrian refugees have already gathered in long queues. They're waiting.
While the seasons and the landscape change in Syria, so much about the country's protracted conflict is unchanging and unrelenting. Thousands of people killed each month, atrocities on both sides, and thousands more fleeing the country as refugees. Millions living in limbo, some out of reach of humanitarian aid, when all they want is peace and a chance for normal life to resume.
The last thing I expected on my latest trip to Syria at the very beginning of 2014 was to be able to eat a bowl of fetteh in Abu Salim's restaurant in Najjiyeh, in territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).