The Spurious Syrian Ceasefire
"There is no electricity here, no medicines and very little food."
"The barrel bombs are raining on us. The ceasefire has changed nothing."
"It made people furious [Syrian regime diverting water from Wadi Barada to Damascus]. That's why we were among the earliest to join the revolution."
"As boys, we would swim in those beautiful waters [Wadi Barada's Ain al-Fijeh spring]. and now they're the prize in a war."
Anonymous, resident of Wadi Barada, under regime siege
"There is almost no canned food left, because we rushed to buy it when the bombing started."
"People are surviving on tiny stocks at home and keeping warm by bundling together or huddling around the fires we build."
Abu Mohamed al-Baradawi, area activist
"People were very frustrated to see so much land go to the government."
"These were luxury developments on other people's land."
Mohamed Raba'a, Syrian journalist-in-exile, Sweden
People living in the area were bitter about government neglect, about rampant corruption, and most certainly about the government's propensity to confiscate private property for its own use. New land measures introduced for the purpose, were used by the regime as authority to confiscate hundreds of acres for state use. And the use to which those confiscated lands were put did not sit well with the former owners, left with nothing but memories of their holdings.
The land, taken from their rightful owners were re-purposed by government to recreational venues for the well-connected and the wealthy, in the form of a horse club, a luxury hotel and other such enterprises. The luxury hotel remains on Facebook, with the publicity advertising it as "a perfect place to unwind".
But it is the Wadi Barada Ain al-Fijeh spring, supplying roughly 70 percent of the fresh water running through the area toward Damascus, that represents the worst irritant. The Syrian army and its allies are attempting to wrest control of the spring from the residents. There was an agreement between the regime and the rebels that water services should be left undisrupted.
And then Assad's forces and Lebanese Hezbollah laid siege to the valley a year ago, and the situation changed. Water had been increasingly diverted to the capital before the onset of the civil war, and that diversion, while the government was ignoring the needs of the people of Wadi Barada, infuriated the residents. And now pro-government forces are righting the rebels to regain control of that important water source.
Even while a truce brokered by Russia and Turkey, with the intention of leading to peace talks has been announced for certain parts of Syria, the residents of Wadi Barada have not been included in the nation-wide ceasefire. Instead, according to residents, bombs have continued to descend daily, alongside the government siege that has led to empty market shelves and residents having to rely on wood fires to create warmth through the cold of winter.
|Screen grab: Wadi Barada under siege|
The ten towns still under rebel control have been under intense bombardment as government helicopters drop rockets and barrel bombs on the area. Hezbollah militants have been clashing with rebel militias on the ground. The ceasefire truce has been misunderstood by Turkey whose foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu complained to Bashar Assad and his backers of "violations" committed by the regime.
But the brokered ceasefire was never meant, from the government's perspective, to lead to a truce with rebels still holding areas coveted by the government. The Syrian military has been clear speaking for the regime, that the truce would not apply to rebel groups with ties to terrorist organizations such as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, present in small numbers around Wadi Barada, and presenting as a good cover for the regime to intensify its siege on the area.
And while the Syrian government speaks of "terrorists", its own actions are equal to those of any terrorist group, far surpassing the death toll that the terrorist groups have amassed. As for the designation of terrorist groups, none surely surpass in terrorism-related jihad and sectarian viciousness, that of Hezbollah, the Iranian-sponsored Islamist fanatics.