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Wadi Barada region, president Assad
SYRIA

Syrian water crisis: ‘Militants deliberately poisoned the water’

The water crisis afflicting the Syrian capital Damascus may constitute a war crime, the UN has warned.

Published: January 7, 2017, 9:21 am

    Millions of people have been deprived of running water after a reserve located in militant-held Wadi Barada was cut off. In December, the running water supply for Damascus was reportedly being contaminated with diesel fuel.

    “In Damascus itself, 5.5 million people have had their water supplies cut or minimized,” the UN’s humanitarian adviser to Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.

    But Egeland has stopped short of placing any blame, saying that “fighting” has prevented an assessment of the situation.

    Syrian officials say militants deliberately poisoned the water and then damaged infrastructure. In Damascus, too the militants are blamed for the crisis.

    Last week, RT spoke to residents queuing up for water to be delivered by government and municipal authorities in tankers, as the militant held Barada River and Ain al-Fijah spring reportedly supply 70 percent of the water for Damascus and its environs.

    A ceasefire deal between government and rebel forces came into force just before New Year’s celebrations, but Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front terrorists refused to take part.

    The deal was brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, with Moscow and Ankara as guarantors of the truce. However, the militants broke the truce shortly after its approval by UN Security Council members on January 2, according to RT.

    It appears they are now blaming the Assad government for alleged violations in the Wadi Barada valley in a effort to undermine the truce.

    The shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies.

    Some days ago the Islamic State not only shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates, but high voltage electricity masts of lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut.

    The “humanitarian” White Helmet organization seems to be directly involved in it, a blogger Moon of Alabama says.

    This increases the suspicion that the illegal blockade of water to civilians in Damascus is part of a wider organized campaign by the “Assad-must-go” adherents, after ISIS terrorists boasted on social media about the sabotage.

    The water crisis in the Wadi Barada valley has forced the Syrian army, which has surrounded the valley, to launch an offensive in order to regain control of the water source.

    Al-Qaeda is using the move as an excusse to claim that the Syrian government is breaking the ceasefire, and have called a halt to preparations for the pending peace conference in Astana on that basis.

    When the Syrian president received the Spanish daily El País in a Damascus residence amid heavy security measures in February last year, he explained the very difficult position of his country.

    “But we definitely need that help [from Russia] for a simple reason: because more than 80 countries supported those terrorists in different ways, some of them directly with money, with logistical support, with armaments, with recruitments. Some other countries supported them politically, in different international forums. Syria is a small country. We could fight, but in the end, there’s unlimited support and recruitment for those terrorists.”

    karin@praag.org

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