Syria’s population has faced innumerable calamities since the outbreak of war in 2011, and even with hostilities now at a relatively low ebb, economic hardships are continuing to take a massive toll. In particular, a shortage of oil products –gasoline, diesel, LPG and fuel oil – has triggered a nationwide crisis and the government in Damascus is scrambling to save face.

An unseasonably cold winter exacerbated already limited LPG supplies, but in recent months gasoline and diesel shortages have essentially halted life in Syria’s main cities. President Bashar al-Assad’s government has responded by issuing ‘smart cards’ for both cooking fuel and gasoline which limit household consumption to a fixed allocation over a set period of time. Allocation of these cards is patchy at best. The government, facing a rare amount of public criticism from its loyalists, has blamed social media for stoking fear and causing large queues at petrol stations. (CONTINUED - 736 WORDS)