Syrian Governor: Deal Struck to Restore Water to Damascus

Opposition sources denied there was any such deal, but a source inside the Wadi Barada region reported several hundred civilians were leaving under an agreement. State news agency SANA also reported people were leaving the region, among them several dozen fighters, media reports said.

The reported deal comes after weeks of fighting in the region, 15 kilometers northwest of Damascus, which has threatened a fragile truce in place since Dec. 30.

The terrorists have damaged water infrastructure and left some 5.5 million people in the capital and its suburbs facing water shortages, according to the UN.

Damascus’ provincial governor, Alaa Ibrahim, told SANA there was now a deal to allow the government to retake control of the region.

“The agreement that was reached in principle requires the militants to give up their heavy weapons and for nonlocal militants to leave the area of Wadi Barada,” he said.

“(Then) the Syrian Arab Army will enter the area to clear it of mines and bombs to prepare for the entry of maintenance teams … to fix the damage caused to the water pumps and pipes by the terrorists’ attacks.”

But Ahmed Ramadan, an official with the opposition National Coalition, denied any such deal had been reached.

“This information is untrue and is a part of the psychological warfare,” he told AFP.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based activist group, also said the government had not reached a comprehensive deal with the militants.

But it reported that residents wishing to leave were being offered safe passage on an individual basis.

And a source on the ground in Wadi Barada said Wednesday that some 600 civilians had left the area, passing through a makeshift tent where government officials were checking documents. SANA reported that some 500 people had left the area, among them some 60 rebels.

Fighting has continued in Wadi Barada despite the start of the ceasefire, which is intended to pave the way for new peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, which Russia confirmed Wednesday were scheduled for Jan. 23.

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