by and for citizen investigative journalists

Wadi Barada – What Happened to Damascus’s Water?

January 4, 2017

By Nick Waters

On the 23rd of December, the water supply to Damascus was cut off by the Damascus Water Authority after it was alleged to have been contaminated with diesel. This has resulted in over four million people having no regular access to water, and the UN releasing a statement declaring its alarm. There are competing claims as to whether this was the result of action by the rebels, or from bombing by the regime. This article will use open source information to examine this event and try and establish who is responsible. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all times are in UTC, including time-stamps on tweets and posts.

Context

The water supply to the Damascus basin mainly relies on the Barada and Fijeh springs. The Barada Spring supplies Lake Barada, which is the source of the Barada River. This river flows past Ain Al-Fijeh in the Barada Wadi, where it is joined by water from the Fijeh Springs, which provide approximately 50% of the water flow. This flow provides the vast majority of water to Damascus, where it is treated and distributed around the city.

Map in General of the Fijah Springs, (Credit: Google Maps)

Map in Detail of the Fijeh Springs, (Credit: Google Maps, M. Darwishah, and talkingsyria.com)

The control of drinking water for several million people is a vital strategic asset, providing a huge amount of leverage to the faction which controls it. This gives the rebels who control the Barada Wadi disproportionate influence relative to the territory they control.

Image showing the Barada Wadi relative to Greater Damascus. The grey line across the pocket is approximately 9km long. (Credit: syria.liveuamap.com)

The rebels have used this influence to prevent the incursion of regime troops into the Barada Wadi, as well as other rebel-held areas, by threatening to block the water supply to Damascus. This appears to have happened several times, notably on July 6th 2015, when the Wadi Barada Shura Council shut off the supply for several days in response to a regime offensive on Zabadani.

Therefore, the situation around the Fijeh Springs is not a zero-sum game: If the regime attempted to take the Barada Wadi area they risk the water being cut off to Syria’s largest city, while if the rebels inflict permanent damage on the springs they lose all influence and risk their pocket being destroyed. This makes the status quo the least-risky option for both parties, the rebels get to control their pocket, while the regime receives drinking water for the Damascus basin.

Allegations and Examination of Open Source Media

Although the Syrian regime maintains that it was the rebels that poisoned the spring, there appears to be significant amounts of media showing bombing in and around Al Fijeh on the 23rd December, as well as damage to the structure which covers the spring-heads themselves. There is also evidence to suggest that the rebels had prepared some of the infrastructure for demolition on or before the 25th December.

Evidence of Bombing on the 23rd December

From the available media, and rebel claims, it appears that there was regime bombing on the 23rd of December, in and around the location of the spring structure.

Video Posted at 1604 on 23rd December showing damage to Ein Al Fijeh close to the springs:

Geolocation of the above video, showing proximity to the spring structure, marked in blue. (Credit: @wasc_algonquin)

The above video shows that the structure in which the springs are located, highlighted in blue, was undamaged at the time of upload. Note the left-hand aspect of the structure highlighted in blue in the video geolocation, which we will see has been damaged in later images.

Damage to the Spring Structure

Using media freely available on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, it is clear that the structure that covers the spring was significantly damaged on or after the 23rd December.  There are multiple videos showing this damage, as well as imagery:

Below we see satellite imagery comparing 25/10/2016 with 29/12/2016. Note the obvious damage, as well as what appears to be a crater highlighted in red close to the outflow. (Courtesy of DigitalGlobe NextView License)

Video Showing Bombing

There is also a video which shows a bomb of some sort striking very close to the spring structure. Due to it being included in an Al Jazeera News report it is not possible to verify the date it was uploaded.

Geolocation of video – Still from video

Geolocation of video – Image from Panoramio overlooking the spring structure

Geolocation of video – Image showing buildings and (in pink) the likely viewpoint. (Credit: Google Earth)

Image of bomb before impact

Image showing moment of impact: the splash appears between the buildings highlighted in blue in the geolocation and the spring structure on the lower left

It should be noted that this bomb appears to land to the south-east of the actual spring structure, between it and the two buildings highlighted in blue. This puts the impact point within 80 meters of the main spring structure, and makes it a likely culprit for the crater seen in the 29/12/2016 satellite imagery.

The video also shows a second bomb falling, and impacting on the spring structure itself.

Still from the video showing the second bomb

Still from the video showing the second bomb (yellow circle) about to impact the spring structure, as well as splash from the first bomb (orange square)

Still from the video showing two distinct splashes from the two bombs. The pressure wave from the second bomb is clearly visible in the upper section of the yellow circle

This second bomb appears to be the most likely cause of the major damage we see to the spring structure. We can see from the video that it impacts the southern end of the structure, which lines up with a hole in the roof we can see on the satellite imagery. Depending on the kind of the fuse the bomb was armed with, it probably detonated inside the structure, resulting in the large damage to the centre section of the roof.

Allegations of demolition by Rebels

There is also a video posted on a private Facebook account by a rebel calling himself Abu Talib Barada. It appears to show the rebels preparing the Damascus water tunnel for demolition in case the regime attempts to take control of the Baradi Wadi. This video was uploaded on 25th December at 1151 UTC, although it could have been filmed earlier. The description reads:

“Let everyone know that the lives of the hypocrites in Damascus are not more precious than the life of a #child from #Barda_Valley. One of the water tunnels for #Ain_al-Fijah which heads to the capital #The_occupied_Damascus, is currently being #mined by the rebels, in the event that the mercenary #Qays_Farwa commander of the barbaric campaign on the villages of #Barda_Valley continues attacking, all the #main tunnels will be detonated, and will never return.”

Screenshot of video post. Note the time and date posted

The video itself:

There is also an image which is being disseminated by pro-regime activists claiming to show Abu boasting about bombing the structure:

Considering Abu does not seem shy about showing preparations to blow the water tunnel to Damascus, it seems likely that if the rebels did demolish the Damascus tunnel then Abu would post about it. However, examination of his Facebook feed shows no indication that the rebels carried out their contingency plan. This narrative also excludes another post from Abu on the 23rd December at 1921, which explicitly blames the contamination of the water on bombing by the regime.  This directly contradicts the posts which have been cherry picked by pro-regime activists.

Screenshot showing Abu blaming the regime for the contamination of the water.

Translation of highlighted section:

“After what #Barda_Valley areas and villages have experienced of frequent events since yesterday noon, and military escalation by Nusayris gang and the militias supporting it, from The Devil’s party [Hezbollah] and monstrous [rough translation] committees represented by bombing the villages of the valley using air force and helicopters and all kinds of heavy and light weapons and the targeting of all medical and vital points in the region and #Ain_al-Fijah campus directly, which led to the contamination of water after #Mazut_and_Pump_Oil intermixed with the water that feeds #Damascus city [emphasis added], and was the cause of putting the spring out of commission and stop pumping water

Discussion

Examining the open source media surrounding this incident we can reach several conclusions:

  1. The Fijeh Springs are a contested resource and have previously been cut off by the rebels in order to prevent or stop regime offensives.
  2. On or before the 25th December the rebels had prepared the tunnel from the Fijeh springs to Damascus for demolition.
  3. There was regime bombing in and around the vicinity of the Fijeh Springs on the 23rd of December, resulting in damage to local buildings and infrastructure.
  4. There is a video showing bombs hitting very close to the spring structure, as well as the structure itself, although the exact time and date of the video cannot be established beyond doubt.
  5. The same rebel who showed the tunnel being prepared for demolition explicitly blamed the current water crises on bombing by the regime.

Given the regime bombing in close proximity to the spring, as well as video evidence of a bomb impacting the spring structure itself, the most likely scenario is that the regime was responsible for the damage to the spring structure. This bombing is also probably the most likely reason for diesel entering the water supply, whether from a damaged fuel tank, generator, or otherwise. If the rebels wished to cut the water supply they could simply block or divert the spring, as they had done in the past. Preparing one of the tunnels for demolition appears to be an act of deterrence, giving the rebels a “nuclear option” in case of regime attack. Destroying the spring structure itself removes any leverage they have and would give the regime a reason to launch an offensive to take the Barada Wadi. Considering reports of heavy fighting around Barada Wadi, the damage to the Fijeh Springs indeed appears to have sparked a regime offensive on this pocket.

 

Many thanks to  @wasc_algonquin and @QalaatAlMudiq for their help with this article.

 

Nick Waters

Nick is an ex-British Army officer and open source analyst. He has a special interest in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine, as well as intelligence, security and international development. Contact via Twitter: @N_Waters89

119 Comments

  1. Paveway IV

    1. The people in most of Wadi Barada DO NOT get their water from al Fijah spring and they would not be ‘poisoning their own water’ . They get water piped from filthy wells further upstream and a treatment plant on the mountain. All the al Fijah water is piped to Damascus. None of it goes to the local water supply, and normally it does not overflow into the Barada River – it all goes to Damascus.

    2. The accumulator building at al Fijah flows into gravity-fed tunnels and eventually pipes that lead to Damascus. There IS NO generator, pump or pumping station in the building that was bombed and no damn diesel tank or other equipment. The building covers a few smaller springs, which flow into the accumulator pool in the middle of the building. The water flows by gravity from that pool into the Damascus tunnel(s). It’s a natural-flow accumulator and has been one for a century. It would be easy enough to throw a barrel of diesel into the entrance of the Damascus tunnel and ONLY poison the Damascus water. The accumulator water flowing out the overflow is still pure and clean.

    3. The head-chopper video was taken *inside* the accumulator’s Damascus tunnel. Notice anything? How about NO WATER. They had already prevented the water from going into the tunnel when that video was made. That’s done one of two ways: taking wooden dam boards out of the overflow gate, or inserting dam boards over the lower portion of the Damascus tunnel. The accumulator pool only has a few inches of water in it, so they are probably just diverting all of it out the overflow into the Barada River. They can still blow the tunnel to complicate repairs later on if they’re going to lose control of the spring, but they don’t have to do that now to deprive Damascus of water – the overflow does that just fine.

    4. However the roof came down, it has NO effect on the springs. They are still producing and the water is all going out the overflow. See how clear it is? The roof debris didn’t ‘block the Damascus tunnel’ or the head-chopper video couldn’t have been made. The water is ‘turned off’ to Damascus by opening the overflow gates all the way (pulling all of its flash boards) so the accumulator main pool is too low to flow into the Damascus tunnel.

    Reply
    • Arya Stark

      Looking at it again this is right. The damage to the building is not the reason the water is cut off.

      Reply
    • wrathofaton

      What about the news that government stopped water because of contamination? Did they just stopped water flow to any reservoirs in Damacus?

      I hope you’ll see this because I trust you more than this page here

      Reply
      • Paveway IV

        wrathofaton – Yes. The purification/pumping station in Damascus detected the contamination, stopped pumping to storage in the city and just diverted any water they were getting from the mountain out to the Barada River. They lost a few hundred thousand gallons of supply and have not sent any into city distribution from that station since Dec. 22nd. Nusra cut off the supply in the mountain, so nothing has been going through anyway and they probably have to clean the entire line.

        Nusra has since blown the tunnels in al Fijah and the other springs, so nothing will go through until government repair crews can get to the destroyed sections and fix them. Damascus is able to push some water into their distribution system from other pumping stations using city wells, but it is very limited in quantity and very low quality (not drinkable). Some sections of Damascus have had no water at all, and some have an hour of water every day or two, but none of it is drinkable.

        The problem is that – out of desperation – the people will start cooking with or drinking the bad city water and get sick. Infants and the elderly can die from normally mild water-borne illnesses like dysentery. Years of brutal U.S. sanctions have slowly degraded the entire Damascus water system, so they’re doing the best they can right now. Al Nusra took out the only chlorine plant in Syria three years ago, and water purification chemicals/equipment are hard to come by. This has been right in line with the U.S. pattern of destroying infrastructure to punish Syrian civilians. Deir EzZor is under siege by ISIS and has not had *any* water, gas or electricity for three years . The U.S. refuses to help them – it’s genocide, plain and simple.

        Reply
    • Brian S

      According to the documents attached to a World Bank project of 1983 a pumping station was to be built at the Fijeh Springs along with 8 further stations along the supply line to Damascus in order to boost the indequate outflow during the dry season; if that was necessary 30 years ago I imagine it would be even more needed today. The documents also indicate that the spring serves 8 villages in the Barada Valley (plus Yarmouk).

      Reply
      • Paveway IV

        Brian S – Back then, the pumping station at al Fijah was to distribute water (uphill/upstream) to the other Wadi Barada villages. By the 90’s, Damascus demand was so high that all of the al Fijah water went to Damascus. The pumping station there was closed. The Syrian government ended up drilling wells elsewhere in Wadi Barada to use for their local supply. It’s very low quality and the purification system is inadequate (when it’s working). The government has interrupted that supply to Wadi Barada in the past for various reasons. There were hundreds of other wells drilled in the area for additional Damascus supply, so the older wells and upstream springs are drying up. Barada River is an open sewer with no water at all for most of the year. The only time it flows is during winter rain. It’s probably flowing now because the head-choppers blew all the Damascus supply tunnels and the spring water is running to the river again.

        Reply
    • jirina

      This view is correct. Damage on the roof of the reservoir has no effect on the spring. The water flows to the river and no to Damascus. The problem is the turning off the water flow. Who has done it? Only one who could handle it by foot.

      Reply
  2. stranger

    Maria Zakharova, the director of press department of Russian MFA, told how US diplomats threatened Russia at the closed diplomatic meeting at the highest level in Oct 2015:

    “We were asked to give you the hardest signal: Russia will suffer. It will be done, so that Russia will really feel what a real pain is. Take that into account…
    Take into account, everything you will be doing in reality will be disavowed by an informational campaign which will override the results of your work. You will be fighting terrorists, but will look like aggressors…”

    Excuse my translation, tried to translate literally from her words, from the first hands. I believe her.

    That is actually what is going on. The real situation in Syria is overridden with a blurred media picture painted by the venal media including Bellingcat.
    In this perverted picture the evil government has killed half a million of own civilians just for fun (because it is evil) while noble Islamic extremists also come from abroad related to Al Qaeda terrorists are just Syrian people fighting for the democracy using solely American TOWs against only regime’s tanks.
    In this perverted picture Russia is the aggressor invaded Syria who bomb solely hospitals and civilians with cluster bombs, despite the fact that Russia is the only one legally invited by Syrian government according to all international norms and nobody else. And Russia is transparent in her aims to end the civil war in Syria and open to collaborate.

    Reply
    • André

      Either you haven’t been following the events in Syria (starting over 40 years ago), or you are deliberately echoing Assad propaganda. Considerable evidence shows that Assad militarized the protests against his government in 2011, and gradually Syrians started resisting militarily. This article clearly shows, in understated fashion, that the Assad regime & allies are responsible for the problems with water supply to Damascus from the Barada valley.

      Reply
        • John

          Easy to criticise when not living under a Tyranny, and risking death by torture for having an opposing view…such are times that we praise dictators Like Assad and Putin, demonize refugees and victims of war crimes.. and pursue populist nationalistic agendas… best go do some reading on history and how it repeats itself… Putin is another Hitler in the making…

          Reply
          • Len

            Seems you know nothing of Russia or Putin.. Hitler in the making or dictator? Have you actually been to Russia or talked to anyone there? Your exaggeration and outlandish claims invalidate anything you say basically.

      • stranger

        I’m not saying about Assad and his propaganda, I’m saying about western propaganda which makes a fool of you by demonizing Asad and especially Russia and idealizing the extreme religious fanatics head choppers as noble fighters for democracy. And Bellingcat as a small bolt of this propaganda.

        As US diplomats said, the informational campaign is supposed to override the real picture and support their gropolitical aims for reconfiguring the Middle East for suppressing the Russian influence. That is exactly what is happening. Hopefully that all was just a stupid aggressive politics of the leaving lame duck’s administration and the new one will be wiser.

        Whatever bad is Assad, do you think the ‘regime change’ is worth half a million casualties, destroyed country as in Libya and Iraq, the raise of Nusra/Queda and ISIS?

        Really, instead of doing something you are blaming Russia for everything and supply the weapon to the real terrorists hoping they will not get out of control as Al Queda which was intentionally raised by the west until then stroke back on 9/11.

        Reply
  3. CoalitionForChristmas

    Wow…

    Who would have guessed, another pro-rebel article. I had a hunch that you’d blame the government….and not very surprised you left out the ‘moderate rebels’ celebrating over the destroyed spring. Keep up the anti-assad propaganda guys, you’re really doing a number for your integrity and all of OSINT!

    Reply
    • André

      Yes indeed, the facts clearly favour the rebels.
      And no, the rebels are not “celebrating” the badly damaged spring, they are complaining about Assad regime attacks in gross violation of a supposed ceasefire. Some of which damaged the Barada springs water supply system.

      Reply
      • stranger

        Indeed, that is the motive. The rebels and other Nusra might have want to disrupt the peace negotiations in Astana Kazakhstan by provoking fire or might be by destroying the spring. Wadi Barada was named as one of the places by the rebels for the cease fire violation as an excuse to avoid the peace negotiations priory agreed and planned in Astana this month.
        So Bellingcat is trying its best to advocate the rebels’ excuse to avoid the peace negotiations by trying to blame the government in this incident and whiten the rebels. Look at a wider news context, why such topic appeared currently.

        Reply
      • wsj

        There is no ceasefire with Ahrar and Nusra, both are there. Disrupting water and using the resulting water crisis to blackmail Syrian government is their only way to survive the offensive that was started mid-December

        Reply
      • duplicitousdemocracy

        The image on Global Research (on the Damascus Humanitarian Catastrophe page) showing the terrorist standing on top of the partly destroyed Wadi Barada water facility clearly shows he is smirking and he certainly isn’t distraught at the damage that has been caused. He looks to be doing a victory sign and appears delighted at his handiwork. Pull the other one André.
        Bellingcat claims at wanting to uncover the truth are continually undermined by shoddy articles like this. Placing red and blue boxes around buildings won’t fool anyone into thinking its well researched.

        Reply
        • Anwar

          First, he is not a terrorist. He is just a kid. The reason he is standing there is that he is trying to tell the world that despite the brutal bombing, we are still here and alive. I know this article is about the water, but the Syrian regime has bombed the shit out of these towns and has driven almost 50k people out of their now destroyed homes. The regime is not after the water. The water stopped flowing after the regime assault started. It had flown for 6 years before that with hardly any issues. If you want to see pictures of the destruction to civilian property there, please let me know. I have tons.

          Reply
  4. amin

    a big chunk of the wall is missing (right where the two column supporting the part of the roof that fell , left wall middle part (picture taken from the SAA position ) , -_- you didn’t notice !!!! . my guess explosive were used . ,and it looks like the guy who toke those picture form inside was avoiding that part

    Reply
  5. Paveway IV

    There are supposedly 2000 ‘rebels’ in the Barada Valley, and 1500 of them are not even from the area and a large number of those are not even Syrians. So you have 1500 jihadis holding 100,000 Barada Valley civilians hostage so they can retain control over the Damascus water supply. The civilians wanted the fighting to stop and the jihadis to leave and held a protest two weeks ago. The jihadis machine-gunned the demonstration and killed several of them. They threatened to kill anyone who left the valley. Why didn’t SOHR report that?

    Napalm barrel-bombs? Why no reports of chlorine barrel-bombs? They usually trot out that ridiculous claim by now.

    Reply
  6. Louis Proyect

    So interesting to see the really crude and stupid Assadist comments here that includes Hitlerite characterizations such as “evil subhumans”. Does Putin think he is getting his money’s worth by paying hundreds of these people to stalk websites like this? Doesn’t he understand that any normal person reading a thread like this would regard “subhuman” as an epithet that emerges out of the Assadist netherworld like Alex Jones?

    Reply
    • stranger

      It is sad to see how the anti Russian propaganda damages people’s brains. People start to see Putin’s agents everywhere and believe that everybody who has a different opinion is paid for it. It’s sad to see the results of such brainwashing…

      Reply
      • Louis Proyect

        Mr. Stranger, my nephew will be vacationing in Moscow next month. Can you recommend a reasonably priced hotel?

        Reply
        • William Lambton

          Just butting in here… please forgive my bad manners.

          I cannot recommend a hotel, as the one I stayed in in 2002 has – I last heard – been demolished, the Rossiya.

          However, I do recommend Café Pushkin for food, especially the pig’s trotters, ideally washed down with Georgian wine. It’s just off Pushkin Square (Пу́шкинская пло́щадь – Pushkinskaya Square):

          https://cafe-pushkin.ru/en/.

          I remember every detail of the dinner I had there, as if it were yesterday.

          Reply
        • stranger

          Pushkin is definitely a luxury restaurant. It was always supposed to be a rather expensive. But with the weak rubble now, it may not be as expensive.

          The hotels in the center with the view to the Kremlin may by expensive like $400-500/per night. But a very good hotel above average even in the very center is around $100-150 at the moment.

          The hotel Metropol right in the center of the city, next to the Big Theater and in the walking distance to the Red Square, and a subway station is only $143. Which seems surprisingly low. Must be a good choice if it is really as low now.

          Probably it’s a good time to visit Moscow while the rubble is still weak and there are few tourists. It’s rather cold now, but Moscow is beautifully decorated for the New Year. Though, in my favorite Sankt-Petersburg – Petergof there is nothing to do in winter. I’d always recommend to visit Sankt-Petersburg first rather than Moscow.
          Sorry for the offtop

          Reply
        • stranger

          In the meantime Obama is preparing to the war with Russia. 4200 soldiers and 400 war vehicles in 900 rail cars are moving to Poland via Germany.

          bundesdeutsche-zeitung.de/headlines/national-headlines/usa-entladen-panzer-in-deutschland-fuer-krieg-gegen-russland-963505

          It looks like he is so disturbed by the defeat together with their Clinton, that starts doing hasty, stupid mistakes. Just a couple of weeks are left. Hopefully he will not have enough time to do any bigger mistake and stay away from the red button. It’s all is a delirium!

          Reply
          • William Lambton

            Thank you, “stranger”. It is a pity we do not know who you are. I am identifiable via the web, as is the writer of the main article (who was not in the “Catering Corp” [sic], as one respondent, “Len”, suggested – not least because the UK’s Army Catering Corps was disbanded in 1993).

            I recollect a symphony orchestra busking in a subway in Moscow in September 2002, a large and attentive audience stood around – and many other charming features in the city and beyond. For a foreign visitor, the city generally, including the Café Pushkin, was very good value… so long as you were careful with the taxi drivers.

            The nightlife was completely crazy!

            I wouldn’t be too concerned about Obama’s tanks. Putin worked out during the red-line chemical incident that he was dealing with an American administration that was spineless, and has conducted his foreign policy accordingly since. As a leader, he is capable of a particular ruthlessness, at moments. I have not supported Russia’s arming of and more recent interventionist support for Assad, but only for so long as Russia and Turkey between them have failed to remove the dictator from office. Assad’s régime murders on a grand scale without effort and yet is also an accredited government, the combination thus a profound lie – the grandest lie of our era. Even if other governments also commit murder, they cannot match the extent and type.

            Assad himself I see as his father’s prisoner. He will not look outside the prison walls and so does not in fact know that the death of, for example, a farmer or shopkeeper, at the hand of his government, is a real death. It’s just something on a list.

            For Putin, Assad is a public-relations disaster. Some people in the West forget that Russia is still emerging from 75 years of nihilism, the roots of her Orthodoxy being tended as if a sapling’s. But, all will be well!

            I write from Ireland. I was in Moscow to support an Irish football team.

          • Len

            ” I am identifiable via the web, as is the writer of the main article (who was not in the “Catering Corp” [sic], as one respondent, “Len”, suggested – not least because the UK’s Army Catering Corps was disbanded in 1993).” … I am still waiting to hear what Corp he was in. 🙂 And always funny when ppl say they are “identifiable” because they post a pic or a little info somewhere…. aww if it only were that easy.. well everyone is entitled to believe what they want.. no matter how true it may not be.. And btw.. I know the Catering Corsp was from 1941-1993… doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find that fact out 🙂

          • William Lambton

            Hello, “Len”.

            There are an awful lot of “Len” references on the net.

            The writer of the main piece here however has a first and second name. If you will care to look for two minutes, you will find that this has narrowed the field considerably, especially if you add that he is a former British army officer. I have never met the gentleman, nor spoken to anyone about him, but know his army number, rank, regiment and where he served – mainly from a public news source, via a couple of clicks. As Mr Waters has, however, chosen not to tire us with what he may consider to be, for most readers, an overload of uninteresting personal information about himself, as this would detract from the matter at hand, namely, the fruit of his considerable labours on Bellingcat about Wadi Barada, I shall not weary you with detail which you would already have found out for yourself if it wasn’t, at root, of little interest to you either.

            This indeed suggests it is more convenient for you to infer that you cannot
            know, and therefore, because of this, for you not to know, in fact, much about Mr Waters as you may then attribute to him an inhibiting act of self-concealment the practice of which, in this instance, is your privilege alone, not his, this making you the authentic party guilty of the thing of which you accuse Mr Waters!

            So, if all that I have just written is untrue, what is your full name please, “Len”, and, for good measure, where are you from?

            All ears, so I am.

          • Len

            Hello “William”
            The point, which you seem to be missing, is not who I am.. the point is who the author of this article is. He does provide a “little” information and people could spend some time to dig up more information about him but they should not have to spend that time in the first place. He does not need to provide a full bio at the top of the article but it should be available on the author page of this site. Seems the “fact” his is an ex-British Army officer with some interests is suppose to impress ppl that the quality of his work is beyond approach. If I were an author I would at least give ppl in my bio a more complete history of my qualifications. And a article based almost entirely on one video doesn’t make for a very convincing argument that the regime “bombed” its own water supply. The fellow on her called Jirina

          • Len

            oops. .wrong button pushed before I could finish.. meant to conclude with that fact that ppl on here like Jirina, who I do not know, also provide some valuable insight into the situation in Syria.. I (and others) do not need to take everything they say at face value but at least I can research what they say and come to my own conclusions as to whether what they say is verifiable and not prejudice towards one-side or another. The fact that some ppl prefer not to include a last name or not is moot.. everyone has their own reasons not to be too public on the internet.. and not all those reason are because of nefarious intent.

          • William Lambton

            Thank you, “Len”.

            My point was specifically about who you are. We know exactly who Nick Waters is. We do not know – indeed, we have no idea at all – who “Len” is. I allowed for individuals concealing their true identity if “the reason for their self-concealment” were known and one agreed “with its purpose or need”, in another comment here. So, what’s your reason? If the reason, either from what the person has written or from other sources, is not clear, then inevitably any comment made anonymously by anyone on the web concerning a subject as serious as Syria becomes invalid and worthless, even if it’s brilliant, indeed even if it is true (this is partly on the basis, for example, that liars, copiously, misuse the truth, packing falsehoods onto or under it, now or at a later date) – and the remark will be construed automatically as nefariously inspired (deemed, possibly incorrectly, the construct of, say, an habitual or professional liar), because hiding behind a false or incomplete name is in itself a nefarious activity, and so gets a bad ball rolling right at the start, even if the concealment is executed for the best of reasons… your readers must know, at minimum, WHY, to dislodge the sleaze effect just described, whether none of such a slur on character would be ascribed to you or anyone else commenting anonymously on this web page, should the true identity of each anonymous contributor suddenly burst out, or not. So, such an explanation suits both truth-teller and liar, but is a compromise which at least allows the truth-teller to be read, if equally alongside the liar, who will also be read, after confession of their reason for anonymity. All of this is maybe very unfair, particularly if someone is struggling to say something worthwhile but cannot struggle enough to say who it is who thus struggles, but is the fact of it.

            You appear intimidated by Nick Waters’ credentials, especially that he was once a soldier, as if he had become one in order to impress people on blogs. But the plain statement of his identity is what makes you uneasy – and that’s because you will not make the same statement yourself.

            Anyhow, kind regards,

            William Lambton,
            Ireland.

          • stranger

            Giving one’s credentials doesn’t mean a person tells the truth. And being anonymous doesn’t mean to be dishonest. Look at Clintons campaign and the current anti Russian hysteria for example – so bold blatant lie regardless of we know who tells that, when they don’t refer ‘reliable anonymous sources’ or ‘special services cannon uncover their methods/evidences’.
            Usually it is easy to guess if you are being told a lie or a truth, don’t you agree? Usually nobody is expected to believe what is written, but just to get some material to test by the common sense, try to fit into known bigger context and cross validate by independend sources.

          • William Lambton

            Of course you are right, “stranger”. However, the less anonymity and the more plain, attributable speaking, the better. Lies are easier to untangle if one at least knows who the liar is, as would, here in Bellingcat’s comments section, on the subject of Wadi Barada, the truth shine brighter if one knew from whom this virtue emanated, when such probity flows, but one doesn’t know.

          • William Lambton

            No more than a meal was ever cooked and anyone ever ate it, unless the cook was a ghost and the diners shadows.

            I have a comment still under moderation (maybe because it contains links). One or two other comments here appear to relate to the anonymity issue but are tucked under another sub-thread and are not on the page I am currently viewing.

            The chronology (the comments layout here is not particularly user-friendly, one could mention) and contexts (who’s answering what) are difficult to ascertain, when time presses.

            So, because of this awkward scattering and the invisibility of a previous remark, I am ducking out of further input until clarity has been restored!

            I suspect this will not be until after Mr Trump has been sworn in.

    • Len

      You do make a lot of assumptions based on what? the fact that not everyone sees the world thru your eyes? Ppl could be wondering whose payroll your on. And am afraid to be the one to tell you but your comments are “crude and stupid” .. to use your own words..

      Reply
      • stranger

        I am not going to argue with you, I always welcome any critics of myself provided it is constructive.
        I reacted to your accusations of all the people here who disagree with the mainstream demonization of Syrian government and blaming Russia in everything starting from electing a wrong president for US to the allerged Paralympic doping.
        You still continue to insult personally assuming that everybody who disagree with you should be paid.
        Having skimmed your site I see you are also not really a king of conformist 🙂
        Anyway I don’t wish to continue this conversation.

        Reply
  7. William Lambton

    Thanks for the article – very thorough work. As regards the comments, I am discounting all, even plausible ones, made by persons using a false name. I think this a sensible rule of thumb, anywhere on the internet, unless the real person behind the mask is known, together with the reason for their self-concealment and one’s agreeing with its purpose or need. No one commenting here, overtly or otherwise, is known to me, I should add. So, the literary efforts of those using a self-evidently bogus name went in one ear and straight out the other, interesting as some momentarily were. The truth-teller is the larger part of the truth he speaks.

    Reply
  8. jirina

    Agreement between Wadi Barada Residents and Syrian State.
    1- 6 month grace period for men for those who have avoided army conscription
    2- Handing over Med, heavy and light weapons
    3-Agreement to appear at any security agency to clear out status
    4-No fighters from outside wadi can stay
    5-Fighters from outside the wadi can move Idlib with light weapons
    6-Local fighters can also choose to go to Idlib
    7-Syrian Army does not go into private homes
    8-Syrian Army goes into Wadi Barada and puts up check points
    9-Those from the wadi can come back to their villages
    10-Those with jobs can return to their jobs as employees
    Signed between Wadi residents and Regime Rep.

    Reply

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