Note: The Wadi Barada area was under consideration for classification as fully besieged after Hezbollah and Syrian government forces closed all access points to the enclave and attempted to gain control of the water springs in July 2016, but fluctuating conditions delayed its besieged designation. Then on 20 December 2016 pro-government forces launched a major military offensive that ended with the surrender of the entire enclave and forced population transfers of fighters and civilians to Idlib at the end of January 2017. Two of the towns in Wadi Barada - Bassema and Ein al-Fijeh - were completely destroyed and depopulated in the process. The Wadi Barada enclave will remain on the Siege Watch "Watchlist" for the foreseeable future due to continued access restrictions, communications repression, and reports of serious human rights abuses that appear to be part of a demographic engineering campaign.
Dates: "Watchlist" since 24 July 2016.
Siege classification: Watchlist
Was besieged by: Syrian govt.
UN recognized siege?: No
Active Truce?: The towns of Wadi Barada surrendered to Hezbollah and government forces in late January 2017 following a scorched earth campaign.
Current population: 50,000 (as of 10/31/16). Note: this is a low confidence estimate and should not be used for operational planning purposes.
Civil control: Syrian gov.
Military control: Syrian military, NDF, and Hezbollah.
Siege-related deaths: Unknown
Aid: Limited aid since surrender.
Active Conflict: Not since the surrender in late January 2017. Prior to that, Wadi Barada was subjected to six months of tension and sporadic attacks culminating in a devastating month-long scorched earth campaign. On 23 December 2016, barrel bombs dropped by government helicopters targeted the Ein al-Fijeh water facility, causing substantial damage and effectively cutting the flow of water to Damascus, sparking a water crisis in the region. The damaged facility was reportedly targeted again by government strikes on 28 December 2016. The assault on Wadi Barada only intensified after Russia and Turkey declared a nationwide ceasefire on 30 December 2016.
Additional Information: The Wadi Barada encompasses a string of small towns along the Barada River in the Ein Elfijeh, Az-Zabadani, and Qudsaya subdistricts of Rural Damascus Governorate. The area - which effectively controls the water supply to Damascus - had previously been under a longstanding local truce with the Syrian government until the attacks began and restrictions increased in the summer of 2016. By the end of October, much of Wadi Barada was experiencing access restrictions so severe that they prompted local authorities to issue a distress call for humanitarian assistance from the international community.
Two out of the approximately dozen towns in Wadi Barada – Ein al-Fijeh and Bassema – were destroyed during the month-long final assault, and their entire populations were displaced either to other villages in Wadi Barada or to Idlib in the forced displacement transfer. Since the surrender, information has been repressed by the government and conditions have not normalized within Wadi Barada. There are clear indications that remaining civilians face a campaign of harassment and abuse by pro-government forces. Former residents of Bassema and Ein al-Fijeh have not been allowed to return, and many of their homes have been burned down, belongings looted, and property seized by pro-government forces since the surrender. Reports also suggest that humanitarian aid delivered since the surrender has been controlled by pro-government NDF militia who apportion it out to their supporters only.