Nearly 1,200 militants have left the area with their families. Convoys headed towards Idlib, Syria's main jihadist center. The area also main source of water supply for Damascus. Damaged supply lines repaired supplies.
Damascus (AsiaNews) - The evacuation of Islamic fighters from the villages of Wadi Barada ended in the early hours of yesterday, with the release - documented - 1142 fundamentalists. Some local sources speak of 1,500 fighters. Joining them were other 760 people, members of their families. The same procedure in place in the mountains of Wadi Barada, with militiamen concentrated in the Harira town, however, was interrupted before noon because of the snow which made the operation unviable.
Yesterday, the last convoy of fighters left the district of Wadi Barada early morning, on board one of the 35 coaches made available. Even this last convoy, like its predecessors, was bound for Idlib, now the main jihadist center in Syria hosting most of the militiamen of the Islamic State, al Nusra Front and other affiliated groups.
Wadi Barada, located north-west of Damascus, on the eastern side of the Mount Lebanon chain, is inhabited by about 100 thousand people, mostly dedicated to tourism and agriculture. It is also the only access route to the world, via Lebanon. This hill is the main source of water supply in the capital, Damascus, and is famous for its river just gives its name to the valley (Wadi).
It is strategic and is crossed by a railway that leads up to Lebanon, to Riyak. It also represents a bulwark to defend Damascus in case of foreign aggression; several senior Syrian army officers live in its vicinity, and there is the main military barracks Daiamis and Yaafor.
The valley saw the first the arrival of fighters under the Free Syrian Army flag in February 2011; militants attacked the checkpoints and sowed chaos. The armed struggle was transformed following the infiltration of foreign fighters from Lebanon, accompanied by foreign mercenaries.
A short time later the unified armed commando was created, composed largely of Ahrar El Sham and Al Nusra Front, Sham El Abdal and Barada Hawks: different names for a single religious ideology. Under their control the worst injustices were committed, as narrated by refugees who fled the Barada valley for Beirut. Civilians were subjected to sever restrictions, such as the interruption of water from Ain El Figia. Or, by blowing up the aqueducts supplying drinking water to the capital, Damascus, or polluting them with oil as recently boasted by the former emir of Al Nusra Front Hisham Al Ansari, who on his twitter profile added that his fighters are "solidly on the Front Line".
This claim has removed all doubt about the presence, always denied and kept secret by the Syrian opposition, of the Al Nusra Front in Wadi Barada.
The agreement to release the fighters from the area has also allowed 3700 local fighters an amnesty; these people have been allowed to stay in their native city as happened before, with 2600 other people who in recent days had expressed their regret surrendering to the state.
Public water companies set to work yesterday to finish the repairs to the damage caused to the Ain Figia water source by combatants. Power supplies have also been restored.
Lab tests show the water is now drinkable once more, and that the water supply of the capital starting from Wadi Barada springs will return to normal within a few days. The water emergency and the humanitarian crisis it has caused seem to have been consigned to the past, hopefully for good. (PB)