Damascus : A major water crisis in Syria’s capital worsened as regime and rebel forces clashed near its main reservoir despite a fragile truce that entered its seventh day, reports AFP. The water from rebel-held Wadi Barada, which supplies four million people in Damascus, has been cut since December 22, causing major shortages. The regime and rebels have traded accusations over responsibility.

Government forces backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group are fighting to recapture the area northwest of Damascus even as a nationwide ceasefire has brought quiet to other parts of Syria in preparation for renewed peace talks.

The truce, brokered by regime backer Russia and rebel sponsor Turkey, was meant to pave the way for peace negotiations later this month in the Kazakh capital Astana.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces late yesterday launched “dozens of air strikes on parts of Wadi Barada along with artillery and rocket fire, killing a firefighter.”

The Observatory, a Britain-based monitor of Syria’s conflict, said pro-regime forces and rebels were locked in ongoing clashes there Thursday. Retaking the area became an urgent priority for the regime as the cut caused severe water shortages in the capital. Damascus residents said they have been forced to buy bottled water at twice its normal price as their supplies have run low.

“We used to complain about power cuts, but now we can see that it’s nothing compared to the lack of drinkable water. Water is life,” said Faiz, a 50-year-old civil servant. Riham, 49, of Mashrou Dummar district, said she has not been able to bathe or wash her clothes for a week. The water in her own tank had almost run out and she only uses it for absolute necessities.

The public water authority has published daily updates on its Facebook page telling residents where and when water will be distributed. But locals said the water often fails to arrive and when it does, is undrinkable.

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