Syria Daily: Damascus Water Deal Off After Assassination, Pro-Assad Attacks


PHOTO: The pumping station for the waters of Wadi Barada, damaged by pro-Assad attacks in late December


A deal to restore water supplies to Syria’s capital Damascus has collapsed after the killing of the lead negotiator and a renewal of a pro-Assad offensive.

Hezbollah and regime forces have been attacking the Wadi Barada, 10 villages northwest of Damascus with between 50,000 and 100,000 people, since December 22. They have continued the assault despite a nominal ceasefire, brokered by Russia and Turkey, on December 29. President Assad has said the offensive will continue until “terrorists” leave the area.

On Friday, a mutually-agreed negotiator, retired Syrian Army general Ahmad Ghadban, arranged a deal for an immediate ceasefire and access for engineers to repair the infrastructure for the al-Fija springs, damaged by regime airstrikes. The springs provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water, and their cut-off has limited supplies for more than 5 million people.

Friday’s accord also set out terms for a rebel departure from Wadi Barada.

However, Ghadban was shot to death on Saturday in contested circumstances. State media has said that “terrorists” assassinated him, but rebels and local activists say he was targeted by a Hezbollah sniper.

Journalist Nour Samaha, citing “locals in the area”, offers a third version. She said Ghadban was shot and killed by a man from Wadi Barada, allegedly working for a Jordanian emir of the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Her sources said the provincial Governor may have been the intended target, but was in an armored SUV.

Samaha claims the gunman was arrested.

Within hours of Ghadban’s death, the deal collapsed with multiple reports of shelling and gunfire targeting the repair teams, preventing access to the Ain al-Fijeh pumping station.

Then on Sunday, the pro-Assad forces attacked on multiple axes, accompanied by shelling.

Pro-opposition activists said at least 10 civilians were killed in Deir Qanoun village, posting video of some of the shrouded bodies and blood-stained floors (Warning — Graphic Images):

The offensive has gained some territory in the southern part of Wadi Barada. On Friday, Hezbollah finally took the village of Bassima after pro-Assad airstrikes and shelling leveled much of it.


Map: Syria Direct

Rebel Factions Confirm Participation in Political Talks

Some rebel factions have confirmed their participation in political talks with the regime in Kazakhstan next week.

The factions named Mohammad Alloush, a senior official in Jaish al-Islam, as their chief negotiator.

Reports indicate that other factions, such as Ahrar al-Sham, are still refusing involvement in the talks, which have been brokered by Russia and Turkey.

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  1. Is it safe to say that we’ve reached the point where IS is more anti-Assadist than the average rebel? To think that 2-3 years ago they repeatedly pointed out how the Islamic State fought the rebellion more often than the Axis.

    • A) It is an indisputable fact that Assad’s mukhabarat/secret-police have infiltrated a number of Daeesh cells, Assad’s own minions have already bragged as much. B) Rebel inactivity is not an indicator of greater friendliness towards Assad but rather the weakness of their strategic position a weak position btw exacerbated by rebel internal disunity/division.

      • “It is an indisputable fact that Assad’s mukhabarat/secret-police have infiltrated a number of Daeesh cells”

        ISIS has also probably infiltrated assad´s regime units and god knows what else.

      • I’m pretty sure they’ve infiltrated rebel groups too. And despite what some high-ranking Assadists say, I’ve yet to be convinced that they have any tangible influence over their operations. Assad and friends have an obvious interest in exaggerating their intelligence capabilities over IS and AQ. When they claim their covert influence protects Damascus from bombings, yet get bombed there the very next day by JFS, there’s reason to be extremely skeptical.
        ” Rebel inactivity is not an indicator of greater friendliness towards Assad but rather the weakness of their strategic position a weak position btw exacerbated by rebel internal disunity/division.”
        That doesn’t excuse:
        – The Southern Front.
        – Abandoning Aleppo, and arguably the rebellion in general for the north.
        – Displaying outstanding unity in the face of JaA & to a lesser extent JFS, while incapable of emulating it versus Assad.
        – JaI mobilizing to defend Assad’s eastern flank from an IS offensive earlier last year, citing threat of bombing as a reason.
        I mean, you can list reasons for doing the things they do. Foreign pressure, in JaI’s case superior firepower, and the jihadists’ ulterior agenda and provocations, etc. But in each case, it then begs the question: what’s the point of the rebellion, if said things excuse it?

  2. #Observation: Behind-the-lines mobile guerrilla warfare operations is not only just useful for over-running regime check-points (many of which btw are manned by 50 years old men) it can also become an effective form of economic blockade if it’s applied to important regime structure. Why? Rebels control much of the countryside of Syria whilst the regime now controls most of the large towns/cities. Now unless those cities/towns have an airbase, or have a highway connection to such an airbase, the regime fighters (and their pro-regime civilian supporters) in those cities/towns would be entirely dependent upon nearby countryside [which rebels can control by having a ‘presence’ – ie enough concealed/camouflaged weapon and men to launch a successful ambush in the area] for their/regime’s need for food/water/gas/electricity needs. IF rebels permanently capture or destroy the food growing areas (e.g. burning farmland that feeds pro-regime cities/towns), water pumps, gas-pipelines and power stations rebels will be able to FORCE regime to divert to those rebel-captured infrastructural areas and thereby weakening other fronts, this is why I recommend that the target of rebel diversionary/decoy offensives be such infrastructural areas because no senior Shabih/NDF militia leader wants to lose their pipeline or power-plant to rebels as that would mean losing too much money and it’s also a reason why such areas are ideal ambush sites as they/NDF leaders would desperately try to re-capture that area back.
    It should be further pointed out that most of Latakia’s gas and electricity supply come from the power-stations and pipe-lines of the areas south of Hama and south-western Hama therefore the capture of the permanent capture or destruction of these types of infrastructure in that area will end up denying Assad’s aunts/cousins their gas and electricity supply. :)
    All these points points show why regularly launching night-time company (100men)/battalion (300 men) -size mobile guerrilla warfare operations in the areas south-west of Salamiyah and south-eastern Suqaylabiyah (ie. scorch-earth approach of destroying ALL the dams, power-plants, water-pumps and farmland along the entire Orontes river – like near Maardes) is so important.

    • This is the strategy rebels (ie capture of strategic locations like mountains near a highway so convoys can be blocked/ambushed, capture of important regime infrastructures like water/gas/oil pipelines, over-running vulnerable regime positions like check-points through mobile guerrilla warfare, systematically isolating smaller regime bases/units from larger regime bases like Daeesh did Palmyra) should be applying to every major city (e.g. Aleppo/Hama/Homs/Suqaylabiyah/Salamiya/Kernak/Maardws) they need to capture from regime. But it also means taking the fight deep into regime territory rather then waiting for the fight to come to the rebels. What’s happening in the regime parts of Damascus where pro-regime supporters begin to steal water from each other or like in Hama where pro-regime civilians are forced to ration gas. These incidents in regime areas are revealing lessons rebels should be paying attention to and shows the potential for this strategic approach.
      Furthermore I should like to add that the gaps of regime weaknesses rebels have noticed (through open-source and google-earth) which rebels intend (say on day two) to exploit/make-use of during the first phase of their offensive may not be there (because regime has quickly dug a trench there or has moved a brigade of Republican Guards or artillery battery there during the night) in the second phase of rebel offensive. That is why during the second or third phase of the offensive rebels should create multiple diversionary/decoy offensives, just like Daeesh did in order to encircle Palmyra, at ALL vulnerable or prestigious (places regime has to defend because it has important regime infrastructure or has a large shiite population or has a shiite shrine) regime areas so rebels can CREATE (because regime MUST re-enforce that area by weakening/removing regime presence in one town or check-point by sending it’s troops to the point being attacked by rebels) such GAPS/WEAK-POINTS which their reserve troops can exploit (ie push through and over-run) through night-time mobile guerrilla warfare (using multiple battalion-sized?) operations. And each time the regime is made (through these decoy offensives?) to re-enforce these new gaps/weak-points rebels have created the regime will be FORCED to send convoys which rebel TOWie operators can ambush. This approach however requires rebels to take a ‘forward defence’ approach (ie take the fight deep into regime territory rather then waiting for regime to bring the fight to rebel areas) and also requires at an operational level for rebels to aim to ‘defeat in detail’ regime troops (ie isolating/dividing smaller regime units from larger regime units) and this requires rebels to successfully trick regime that rebel troops are concentrating in one area (be it another town/neighbourhood/province) rather then another which they won’t be able to do without first purging from their ranks all regime informants and by infiltrating regime bases in order to spread misinformation amongst regime troops.
      Another way of tricking regime is to use in decoy offensives multiple remote-controlled VBIED assaults (on a multiple axis?) for a company-size (ie 100 men) night-time assault so that offensive seem bigger (thereby panicking the regime into sending troops away from the real area/target of main rebel offensive) then it is.
      I thoroughly recommend this link which provides a brief study of some of the successful tactics the Chechens used against the Russians in the first Chechen war:
      For example some of the tactics (e.g. nightime ambushes of Russian convoys moving from base to base) the Chechens used effectively in the First Chechen War (the one they won against the Russians) are discussed in this article as these excerpts show: 1) On urban warfare “The Chechens were also effective at urban warfare and always tried to ‘hug’ Russian units by staying within one block so that the Russians couldn’t call in artillery on their position without being hit”. 2) On IEDs “the Chechen rebels had access to large stockpiles of Russian shells which were unexploded, bought or stolen (Kramer 2004, p. 28)” which they then re-cycled/re-used using dynamite which made their IEDs even more portent. 3) Finally the Chechen insurgents “were able to orchestrate multiple simultaneous attacks and in one particular incident, five coordinated car bombs at five different locations killed 24 people (Jamestown Monitor 2000).” – I’ve been saying for some time that multiple simultaneous attacks should not only be aspired to by rebels at a strategic level (ie multiple offensives in multiple provinces on the same day) but at an operational (e.g. decoy offensives) and tactical levels (e.g. rebels should not only use open-source and google-earth to decide which regime areas they’re going to attack in the first phase rebels in order to successfully capture that area but they should also use google earth with the aim to control and funnel/channel regime movements during a rebel offensive or regime offensive which could include using multiple horizontally [front of vehicle facing building rather then facing road in front] parked liquid-hydrogen fuel VBIED at multiple locations/routes which regime would use to escape/exit from or bring outside troops from and all these VBIED activated by a remote-controlled spotter nearby who has spotted/noticed regime troops moving away from a rebel offensive or moving towards rebels in a regime offensive, this way rebel control the direction and tempo of battle not regime).

  3. #Aleppo: What did I say about the greed of Shabihs/NDF militias? Apparently they’re now targetting Russian troops if this comment is true “Clashes yesterday evening between Russian forces & Shi’ite Assad regime militia Liwa al-Baqir w/ 7 killed E #Aleppo” – badly_xeroxed
    #Homs: “FSA made direct hits with mortars on Regime positions in retaliation for the shelling of the cities and towns in the countryside.” – CombatChris1
    Combining this approach with the capture or destruction of important regime infrastructure (e.g. power-plants, water-pumps, gas pipe-lines etc) will likely create more of an effect then just shelling.
    #Damascus: Rebels try the booby-trap trick again! :) “Rebels destroyed a building that housed a lot of pro-Assad militants with a massive tunnel bomb in Jobar, Damascus province, 1.5 hrs ago.” – fuadhud

  4. #International: This is from a pro-IRGC source note what he’s threatening the IRGC plan to do to rebels in southern Aleppo “Peace conference in Kazakhastan 100% will be another failure ,when this conclude :#SAA + #IRGC be able to throw 20 k+ troops on Aleppo alone…Since Aleppo #airport is now open combine whit Damascus capacity IRGC can double its forces to 20k+ in 2 weeks if “needed” ” – IRGC_QF
    Anybody still doubting the viability of not pre-empting this planned Iranian offensive in southern Aleppo? Interbrigades plan below (see link below) would be a good start to stop this IRGC plan (especially if rebels use night-time infiltrated mobile units – which includes mounted artillery and dune-buggies mounted with TOWie along with each regiment having their own ammo and fuel supply trucks so behind-the-lines operations can be done – to spearhead/lead the attack at the rear of regime positions) to attack along with the outline (see my above ‘observation’ post) of mobile guerrilla warfare operations in the Hama province. As far as I’m concerned the only activity rebels right now should be doing is either training their troops or improving their munitions and trenches.
    Also why isn’t Khannasir still not being raided? Why is an attempt not being made to capture the mountains near Khannasir so rebel heavy artillery/ATGMs can be mounted within shelling distance to Khanassir so rebel operations can be supported there?
    BTW IRGC officers and Republican Guard officers make perfect baits. If ambushed successfully they should be used as bait in the way I’ve suggested (ie leak the news to nearby militia-groups after tying that Republican Guard/IRGC officer to a lamppost blindfolded with land-mines buried in the ground around them with a concealed sniper nearby to pick off their rescuers once the first mine has been triggered or after tying that Republican Guard to a pillar on top of a booby-trapped building) in the past. Furthermore the variation of this tactic can also be applied to the corpses (ie placing land mines around that corpse with a concealed sniper nearby) also.

  5. I personally think it shows the tardiness of the regime’s strategic approach that it’s interesting in flattening Morek for a future Hama offensive but do absolutely nothing about Deir Ezzor even though that city is on the verge of falling to Daeesh.

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