The UN has warned that the water crisis facing 5.5 million people in Syria’s Damascus may constitute a war crime.
Residents have been deprived of water since December when a reserve in the rebel-held Wadi Barada valley to the north-west of the city was cut off after being contaminated with diesel.
Both sides have blamed each other for the crisis with rebels claiming that damage to the infrastructure was caused by government shelling.
However Syrian officials say rebels contaminated and damaged the water supply. And residents in Damascus told reporters that rebel forces are to blame.
In Geneva on Thursday UN Syria humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said his team was not able to determine who is responsible for the crisis but either way warned that “depriving water is, of course, a war crime since it is civilians who are affected.”
He also warned that civilians “will be affected by waterborne diseases” if the supply was not restored.
Unconfirmed reports from local residents said a local ceasefire had been agreed between the army and militants — raising hopes for an end to the water crisis.
At the UN on Thursday night, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for sanctions on Syria and its allies — including Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah — claiming only they had breached the ceasefire.
“When I look at the list today there is no single violation by the opposition,” he said.
But despite Turkey’s attempts to sabotage the truce it co-guaranteed with Russia, Moscow announced the withdrawal of its naval air forces from Syrian waters yesterday.
General Staff chief General Valery Gerasimov said the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and accompanying ships are to be the first to leave.
The declaration comes a week after Russia and Turkey brokered a ceasefire following the Syrian government’s complete recapture of Aleppo in December.