Did al-Qaeda orchestrate a mass chemical attack on Damascus’ water supply? Did the Syrian government bomb its own water station? The final battle to oust control of a key water facility from insurgents is now underway and the fog of war is thick as civilians attempt to ration this most basic element of survival.

Over four million people in the greater Damascus area spent their New Year without water access and a local resident tells SOFREP, “people are genuinely panicking.” On 22 December the supply from Ain al- Fijah spring was cut off. This crucial single source water lifeline for the region is located about 20 kilometers northwest of Damascus in the Barada River valley (Wadi Barada). The government claims that rebel militants, who have occupied Wadi Barada since 2012, poisoned the water supply at its source by dumping mass quantities of diesel fuel into the spring.

Weaponizing water 

But opposition media has charged the Assad government with deliberately attacking its own water facility at al-Fijah in an air strike, while the Damascus City Water Supply and Sewage Authority continues to point to “terrorist attacks on all water resources feeding into Damascus and its surroundings.” On 29 December the United Nations issued a statement, indicating a “deliberate targeting resulting in the damaged infrastructure.” The UN did not assign blame, and called on both sides to safeguard essential services.

While international reports initially highlighted the diesel poisoning, photos have emerged online which purport to show a badly damaged exterior to the main Wadi Barada facility (see below). Indeed, as of 2 January, air strikes continue to pound the area.