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Monday 9 January 2017

Wadi Barada attack by Hezbollah and Assad regime continues, with no ceasefire in sight

The following report comes from Wadi Barada, an area between Damascus and the Lebanese border under siege by Hezbollah and Assad regime forces.

Wadi Barada is the source of the main Damascus water supply. On 23 December, as part of the attack on the area, the Assad regime bombed the Fijeh Springs, interrupting the water supply. See Bellingcat’s report here.

Hezbollah have a strategic interest in seizing Wadi Barada and other besieged areas between Damascus and the Lebanese border in order to secure supply their supply routes. See the APPG Friends of Syria report here.

The Hezbollah military is a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK since 2008. It is supported by Iran and is allied with the Assad regime. Despite its status as a proscribed terrorist organisation and its role in besieging civilian populations in Syria, Hezbollah is not currently targeted by the UK’s counterterrorism action in Syria.

Wadi Barada attack by Hezbollah and Assad regime continues—no ceasefire in sight

By the Media Commission of Wadi Barada

Report from Sunday 8th January 2017, the 19th day of airstrikes on Wadi Barada.

Warplanes have continued their airstrikes on the villages of Wadi Barada for the 19th day running. These airstrikes have increased in intensity simultaneously with the escalating ground attack on several fronts around the area.

Since Sunday morning, warplanes have carried out intense bombing on the village of Ain El-Fijeh, and this was followed by clashes at the villages north-eastern entranceas regime forces tried once again to storm the village. Simultaneously, heavy artillery and rocket bombardment hit most of the residential areas and farms of Ain El-Fijeh.

The warplanes carried out 20 airstrikes on Ain El-Fijeh until the afternoon today. During this time and afterwards the regime continued to bomb the village with artillery, rockets, heavy machine-gun fire and sniper fire. This is ongoing. This has all led to widespread destruction as the warplanes have targeted buildings with rockets which cause heavy damage.

The warplanes also renewed their airstrikes on the village of Basimah around noon and bombed the village with artillery and IRAM rockets, also targeting it with heavy machine gun fire and artillery. This was followed by an attempt by regime forces to advance from the direction of the Basimah Valley intersection. Rebels managed to stop their advance.  Regime forces and militia have made dozens of failed attempts to advance on Wadi Barada during their 19 day assault on the area.

In the past hour, approaching midnight, the regime has continued to bomb Basimah with 20 IRAM rockets as well as missile batteries, mortars, and tanks.

Clashes between revolutionaries and the regime’s Qalamoun Shield militia have renewed on the outskirts of the village of Kfeir Al-Zeit, at the Tallat Nahlah intersection, after regime militia tried to advance under the cover of heavy bombardment. Rebels managed to stop their advance and there have been reports that regime militia members have been killed and injured. The frontlines between the two sides remain unchanged.

The Lebanese Hezbollah militia resumed their attack southwest of the village of Al-Husseiniya, trying once again to storm it, under the cover of rockets and artillery. They did not manage to advance but the bombing led to the death of a young man as well as the destruction of houses in the villages.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, the regime’s bombardment and siege of Wadi Barada has led to the cutting off of all sources of food, medicine, and fuel to 100,000 civilians and the breakdown of essential services including electricity, water, communications, and the Internet.

The regime has used its cutting off of communications and the Internet to Wadi Barada to isolate it from the media and spread rumours and lies about negotiations, blaming those it calls “militants” for the explosion at the Ain El-Fijeh Spring and cutting off water to Damascus and claiming that they have prevented repair teams and equipment from entering the area.

These regime claims have backfired because video evidence and previous reports by the media authority have shown the regime’s direct targeting with rockets and barrel bombs of the Ain El-Fijeh spring. The regime has also stopped any negotiations and efforts to solve the water problem and it is completely responsible for what happened. It is also responsible for any potential disaster caused by its military assault on Wadi Barada.