On December 22, 2016, Takfiris aligned with al Qaeda in the Wadi Barada valley shut down the main water supply for the Syrian capital of Damascus. Since then, the 5 to 6 million people living in and around the city have been forced to make do with emergency water distributions by the Syrian government. The government’s dwindling reserves barely consist of enough water for people to drink – no washing, no showers and no water dependent production is possible.
This shutdown appears to be part of a systematic, wider coordinated strategy to deprive and starve all government-held areas of utility supplies. Two days before the shutdown in Damascus, the Islamic State (ISIS) suspended a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts on power lines running into Damascus have been destroyed, and repair teams, unlike before, have been denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus have also been cut. A similar tactic was used by the Zionist terrorists of the Haganah, who in 1947-48 poisoned and blew up the water mains and oil pipelines to Palestinian Haifa.
Wadi Barada is a river valley about 10 miles west of Damascus in the mountain range between Lebanon and Syria. It has been under the control of local insurgents since 2012. Since then, the area has been loosely surrounded by Syrian government forces and allies from Hezbollah.
Two springs in the area provide the water for Damascus which is treated locally and then pumped through pipelines into the city’s distribution network. Since the early 1990’s, climate conditions have caused decreasing low water levels in the Barada river valley, reducing the total available water supply for the ever-growing population in Damascus. The recent droughts have only intensified these dry conditions. Local agriculture within the formerly well-hydrated valley was forced to cut back production as a result of this water shortage, as the available water was required by the city, to where it was diverted. However, many families from the valley had relocated into the city or have relatives living there.
After eastern parts of Aleppo were liberated by Syrian and Russian forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to accept the generous amnesty offer and reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over the area, which has since fallen completely under al Qaeda control and therefore outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.
On December 22, the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later, Syrian government forces started an operation to reclaim the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.
Photos and a video on social media allegedly showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th, the facility was reportedly blown up and partly destroyed.
Suddenly, new “civil” media operations organized by alleged locals sprang up immediately after, to spread propaganda to eager Western media outlets such as“There are 100,000 civilians under siege in Wadi Barada!” In reality the whole area once had, according to the last peacetime census, some 20,000 inhabitants. The fraudulent White Helmets organization is also now claiming to be in the area. “The government bombed the water treatment facility!” was the prominent claim by these propaganda networks.
That claim is not plausible, and inconsistent with the narrative provided by photographs of the destroyed facility. These images show a collapse of the main support structures of the roof, but no shrapnel impact at all. A bomb bursting through the roof and erupting would surely have left pocket marks everywhere. Instead, the damage appears to have occurred from well-designed, controlled explosives detonated inside the facility.
Some insurgents posted pictures of themselves proudly standing within the destroyed facility and making victory signs.
There is more such cheer-leading by insurgents on social media. Why when they claim that the government bombed the place?
On December 29, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a warning about the water crisis:
The United Nations is alarmed that four million inhabitants in Damascus and surrounding areas have been cut off from the main water supply since 22 December. Two primary sources of drinking water – Wadi Barada and Ain-al-Fijah – which provide clean and safe water for 70 percent of the population in and around Damascus are not functioning, due to deliberate targeting resulting in the damaged infrastructure.
One of the two springs, al-Fijah, has now been retaken by the Syrian army. 1,300 civilians from Ain al-Fijah, the nearby town with the treatment facility, have fled to the government held areas and were taken in by the Syrian Red Cross. The other spring and the treatment facility are still in Takfiri hands. The government has indicated that it will need around ten days to repair the system after the Syrian army has regained control of the facilities.
Western corporate media has predictably failed to take much notice of the water crisis in Damascus, and their coverage seems to either grossly distort it in such a way as to demonize Assaad, or simply actively avoid it altogether. Apparently, when a real potential humanitarian crisis in Syria develops for them to report on, they would rather pass, preferring to wait around for a government victory so they can distort, conflate, and pollute that narrative to support a neoliberal policy of war, intervention, and chaos.
* Based on source originally published on January 2, 2017 at Moon of Alabama.