Deal reached with rebels to fix Damascus water source

Damascus, Jan 11 (IANS) A deal was reached between the Syrian government and the rebels to fix the damaged spring facility that supplies water to the capital, the state TV said on Wednesday.

The government and rebels concluded a “preliminary agreement” with the leaders of the rebel groups in Barada Valley, which included reconciliation with some rebel groups, and evacuating others out of the area to the northwestern province of Idlib, Xinhua news agency reported.

The deal allows government maintenance workers to enter Barada to fix the Ain Fijeh springs, the main water source of the capital, which has been cut off since December 23.

It also entails that the rebels hand over their heavy weaponry to the Syrian Army, which will enter the area to clear it from mines and explosive devices.

Governor of Damascus countryside, Alaa Ibrahim, said rebel leaders will pressure foreign militants to leave Barada Valley, adding that the agreement viability will become clear within the next few hours.

The report said that a few towns in the valley have already started the “reconciliation” process with the government, as rebels surrendered to government forces in exchange for amnesty.

Previous attempts to reach a truce between rebels and the government in Barada failed, leading to a widescale military offensive by the Syrian Army backed by the Hezbollah group against Barada Valley, to which the rebels responded by severing the water supply to Damascus.

Barada wasn’t considered by the government a part of the Turkish-Russian sponsored ceasefire which went into force on December 30, as the area is largely controlled by the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, designated as a terrorist group.

Thus it was excluded from any settlement in Syria.

However, Nusra fighters there cut off the water from Damascus, causing a massive water outage, amid recent reports that water poisoning cases started surfacing as people resort to unsanitary water sources.