Syria Takes Key Valley Near Damascus, Rebels Withdraw

Deal Gives Syrian Govt Control Over Important Water Source

by Jason Ditz, January 29, 2017

After weeks of fighting, Syria and the rebels in the Wadi Barada valley have reached a deal in which the rebels will be allowed to safely withdraw from the area, giving the Assad government control over a vital valley which provides water supplies to most of the capital city.

Syrian forces enter Ain al-Fija on Saturday, the town which has a major pumping station which the government has struggled to keep control of, and to keep running at all. Fighting in the area further damaged infrastructure, worsening water shortages in Damascus, though officials say they expect to have the repairs done quickly now that they can safely get teams in.

The two sides had previously made deals on getting the infrastructure repaired, though with fighting continuing to rage, this mostly didn’t happen. The rebel pullout, while resolving this, also adds to government control of metro Damascus, which is now nearly absolute.

It is unclear how many rebels were left in the area, and where they will withdraw to. Previous deals have mostly sent rebels to Idlib Province, but that province is seeing a huge surge in infighting among different rebel factions, which may make safely busing new factions into the area difficult.

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