Syria conflict: The biblical river at the heart of a water war By Diana Darke Middle East 8 January 2017

Bridge over Barada river in Damascus (Jan 2017)AFP
The Barada river runs through the heart of Damascus

The flashpoint for Syria’s war, six years old this March, has in recent days taken the form of an elemental struggle over water.

The drinking water supply to some 5 million residents in the Syrian capital, Damascus, was cut on 23 December by the Damascus Water Authority, who say rebels have contaminated it with diesel. Rebels deny this, saying bombing by the government has damaged the infrastructure.

The historic water source of Ain al-Fijeh lies in the valley of Wadi Barada, 18km (11 miles) north-west of the capital, where a cluster of 10 villages has been under rebel control since 2012.

Local people joined the revolution early on in protest against government neglect, corruption and land grabs made legal under new state land measures, where whole hillsides were requisitioned for sports clubs and luxury hotels.

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