The Syrian military announced on January 29, 2017, that they have recaptured the Wadi Barada Valley near Damascus from the rebels. This is about a month after the rebels poisoned the drinking water in Damascus. With the help of their allies, the Syrian military launched an offensive in the areas with the primary goal of seizing control of the water pumping station and major spring.
The Syrian Army Regained Control of the Wadi Barada Valley, Including the Major Spring in Ain al-Fija
Syrian government forces took down the rebel stronghold in the Wadi Barada valley, a geographic region in Syria. They officially regained full control of all the towns and cities in Wadi Barada by January 29, 2017.
It was on January 28 that they took over the spring in Ain al-Fija. The takeover was peaceful as it was included in their agreement with the rebels. Through a spokesperson, the Syrian military announced on Syrian state television that
“Units of our armed forces, together with allied forces have achieved their mission in returning security and stability.”
The Syrian allies who provided military support for taking back Wadi Barada include Russia, Iran, and the Lebanese group Hezbollah. The rebels, who have been fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, are leaving the area with their families for the insurgent stronghold Idlib province. They are safe to leave as per the agreement with the Syrian government. It’s common for the Syrian government to strike an agreement with the rebels that includes an evacuation clause.
This particular event has been called the Siege of Barada. It took place from November 19, 2013, to January 29, 2017. The siege is over now that the Syrian government is in control again.
More Background on the Siege of Wadi Barada
When the rebels poisoned the drinking water in Wadi Barada with diesel fuel, the Syrian government and its allies took action by conducting airstrikes and shelling. The major spring and pumping station provides most of the capital’s water.
Approximately 5.5 million people in Damascus, the capital of Syria, and its suburbs had been struggling to obtain clean water since it was cut off in December 2016. After cutting off supply for the safety of civilians, the water authority tapped into reserves, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
70% of Damascus’s water comes from the Ain al-Fijah spring and Barada River. Many people, therefore, had to buy from unregulated vendors with the hope it was safe. The water being sold during the shut off was twice the regular price as well, which is no surprise due to the economic laws of supply and demand. Some neighborhoods received up to two hours of water every three to four days, but others were completely dry.
This problem is not limited to the people in Damascus. The UN reported that 15 million people in the country have lost access to clean water. Syrian households spend almost 25% of their income on this basic life necessity.
Just a few weeks before Syria’s recapture of the Wadi Barada valley, the government regained control of Aleppo, which was one of the insurgents’ major urban strongholds. Aleppo was once the most populous city in Syria, but after the war, it is probably the second most populous Syrian city.
The recent recaptures of Wadi Barada valley and Aleppo are major victories for the Syrian government. It may put them on the course toward winning the Syrian civil war. This issue is problematic and a concern for the world because it’s the civilians who are suffering the most in the war-torn country.
The conflict also has the potential to fuel a third world war if it continues heating up tensions between Russia, the United States, and Europe. With some important leadership changes, such as Donald Trump becoming president of the United States, the future of Syria is even more uncertain.
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