The Water Supply To Damascus Is Disrupted By Syria's Civil War

Jan 3, 2017
Originally published on January 3, 2017 8:44 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK, let's turn now to the latest in Syria where a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey is in place - well, at least in theory. Rebels say President Bashar al-Assad's forces are violating that cease fire, and NPR's Alice Fordham tells us where.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: The fighting is in a string of villages along the Barada River northwest of Damascus. Forty years ago, this was a lush rural area of farms and fruit trees. But under Assad and his father before him, the farmland was confiscated and the river water diverted to Damascus. So it's no surprise it's been rebellious since uprisings began in 2011. People there say they are enduring airstrikes from Assad or his Russian allies.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: In this video posted at the weekend, a man watches a plane fly overhead...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

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FORDHAM: ...And drop a bomb nearby. In the fighting, the water supply to Damascus has been severely disrupted. The rebels blame the regime, and the regime blames the rebels. I speak to a journalist originally from the area, anonymous to protect his family who are still there. He fears the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: The cease-fire is part of the plan of conducting a massacre. First of all, you block out the area, you bomb it harshly and then say they are terrorists, they are smugglers, they are extremists, they are ISIS.

FORDHAM: The regime says there were groups there with links to al-Qaida, so the cease-fire doesn't apply. Although activists deny that, this journalist I spoke to says it's probably true. But there's also maybe a hundred-thousand civilians there. The opposition say they won't participate in peace talks till the assault stops. But their leverage is limited now, they lost their part of the city of Aleppo last month. And their key backer, Turkey, has moved closer to Assad's Russian allies who are ascendant in the region. Here's analyst Emile Hokayem from the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the short term.

EMILE HOKAYEM: In the short term, the game is up. So the Turks are basically looking to tactically adjust to all that. And that is not necessarily a retreat, but it's something that's awfully close to that.

FORDHAM: He says Turkey's shift away from the rebels will have long consequences in Syria and beyond. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Beirut.

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