Water is the latest battleground in Syria

From CNN

Nour, a housewife in Damascus, says the latest joke in the Syrian capital is also a prayer of sorts: “May the gold you hold become water.”

It is a half-hearted attempt to make light of a water crisis that is impacting millions in Damascus, a city that has been relatively sheltered from the violence raging elsewhere in the country.

Nour said that her family just got water on Tuesday morning, after four days without access. Her family quickly lined up to use the shower and she switched on the washing machine. Now, when she hears the sound of the water motor running, she says it is “like a wedding.”

“When the water comes, it’s the same joy as a mom having a boy after 10 daughters,” Nour said. She did not feel comfortable sharing her last name with CNN.

Some four million people in Damascus have suffered from acute water shortages for more than a week after springs outside the Syrian capital were targeted, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on December 29.

Water from the Wadi Barada and Ain al-Fija springs, which serve 70 percent of the population in and around Damascus, was cut after infrastructure was damaged in fierce clashes. OCHA described the damages as “deliberate,” without saying who was responsible.

The Syrian government and rebel forces are trading blame for the water shortages.

Rebels claim the government destroyed the water pumping station in the Wadi Barada valley, one of the last remaining rebel-held pockets of Damascus.

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The Syrian army and its allies are pushing to recapture Wadi Barada in spite of a nationwide ceasefire. The regime claims it is going after rebel groups who were excluded from the truce, like former al Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham, which it says is operating in the area (although local groups deny this).

 

The Syrian regime has accused rebels of contaminating the springs with diesel, forcing the Damascus water authority to cut the supplies. CNN could not independently verify these claims.

 

A group of pro-opposition groups and civil society organizations in Wadi Barada, including the Local Council and the Syrian Civil Defense, released a statement on Monday calling for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations to assess damages at the Ain al-Fija spring, situated northwest of the capital in a mountainous area near the border with Lebanon.

 

“(We express) our willingness and readiness to accompany and assist teams heading to al-Fija spring to accelerate resupplying fresh water to our people in Damascus city,” the statement read. “This facilitation needs to be accompanied with activating the ceasefire in Wadi Barada region and halting the aggression conducted by the Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah militias.”

 

The Syrian government denies any involvement in the destruction of the springs. State-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on December 27 that the springs in Wadi Barada “came out of service as a result of terrorist acts.”

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