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UN Considers Depriving People in Damascus of Water a War Crime | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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More than 5.5 million people have minimal access to water supplies in Damascus because of the ongoing battles between the Syrian regime and the opposition. The UN has described this disruption to water supplies as a “war crime”.

During a press conference in Geneva, the UN’s humanitarian adviser for Syria Jan Egeland said it is difficult to determine who is responsible for this situation. He said “We want to go there and investigate what happened, but above all we want water to be pumped again”. He explained that “acts of sabotage” and the deprivation of water are war crimes as “it is civilians who are affected”

The Barada Valley is located 15 kilometres north-west of Damascus and is controlled by the opposition. The area has key sources of water supplies to provide the capital and its suburbs with water. The regime is accusing the opposition of “polluting the water with diesel” and cutting off water supplies from Damascus, while opposition factions stressed that bombing carried out by Syrian forces and their allies led to the water network being destroyed.

The situation of Damascus’ residents has been made worse since water supplies were cut off two weeks ago, and fighting in the Barada Valley which supplies Damascus with water is threatening the fragile truce that is sponsored by Turkey and Syria and that entered its seventh day on Thursday. Due to the ongoing battles that include raids carried out by the regime’s forces on the Barada Valley, 4 million people in Damascus have been suffering from a lack of water since supplies were cut off two weeks ago, according to the United Nations.

Reham, aged 49 years, is an employee who lives in the Mashroo’ Damar neighbourhood of Damascus. She told AFP “I have not been able to have a shower or wash my things since last week due to the lack of water”. She added that “the best of the remaining water supply is in the reservoir and is about to run out. It is used for everyday necessities”.

On his part, Muhannad, 53, complained about the high prices of bottles of mineral water after the water was cut off. He explains “Today I bought a box of six bottles that each have a capacity of 1.5 litres for 1000 Syrian Pounds ($2) knowing that its original price was 650 Syrian Pounds. He added that this expense was unexpected and has added to living costs.