Maintenance workers wait at the entrance of Ain Fijeh town, countryside of Damascus, Syria, to enter the town to fix the Ain Fijeh spring, the main water source feeding Damascus' over five million inhabitants on Jan. 28, 2017. As many as 900 people including rebels and their families are set to evacuate a water-rich town northwest of the capital Damascus on Sunday, as part of a deal with the government, sources familiar with the evacuation told Xinhua on Saturday. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
DAMASCUS, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- As many as 900 people including rebels and their families are set to evacuate a water-rich town northwest of the capital Damascus on Sunday, as part of a deal with the government, sources familiar with the evacuation told Xinhua on Saturday.
The evacuation will take place in the Ain Fijeh town in the Barada Valley region near Damascus, said the sources, adding that the number includes 150 rebels, while the rest are their families.
They will leave Ain Fijeh toward rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib.
This comes as the Syrian army reached the Ain Fijeh spring in the town on Saturday, hoisting the Syrian flag over that area following a month of battles with rebels there to capture that area and restore drinking water to Damascus, a military source told Xinhua.
The Syrian army entered Ain Fijeh, after reaching an "initial" agreement with the rebels there for their evacuation from that area, the source said, on condition of anonymity.
He added that maintenance workers are bracing to enter the village to fix the Ain Fijeh spring, the main water source feeding the capital's over five million inhabitants.
The recent development comes as battles have raged since Dec. 22, when the water was cut off from the capital, with the government accusing the rebels of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front of severing the flow of water to Damascus.
The battles were penetrated with a few pauses, in which efforts were being exerted to reach a deal with the rebels. However, all previous efforts had failed without achieving its intended goals, as the rebels of Nusra were reluctant to leave the area, insisting on rendering flat all efforts to defuse the tension in that area.
It's worth mentioning that several rebel groups were stationing in Barada Valley, with most of them establishing reconciliation with the government, except Nusra, which is designated as a terror group by the UN and excluded from a currently-underway cease-fire that began on Dec. 30.
Ain Fijeh is one of ten towns in the Barada Valley region northwest of Damascus. The army captured all of the towns, before finally reaching Ain Fijeh.
Now, the army seems in control of the spring, and the workers will start fixing the damage, as a prelude to resuming the water flow to Damascus, whose residents have been struggling with the scarcity of water since Dec. 22.
The water authorities have implemented emergency plans to meet around 30 percent of the daily needs of Damascus city residents on a rotational basis until water infrastructure is restored to its previous capacity.
Damascus Countryside Governor Ala'a Ibrahim said Saturday that bomb squads are combing the area to clear the spring of mines and explosives.
The governor confirmed that the maintenance teams are expected to enter the spring on Sunday morning to repair damage to the facility of Ain Fijeh spring after the engineering units are done combing the area.
For his part, Minister of Water Resources Nabil al-Hassan said that maintenance teams are waiting for the final report by the army units inside the spring on clearing it of mines and explosive devices in order to begin repairs.
He pointed out that there will be emergency solutions to return water to Damascus city within hours, adding that full repairs will be carried out gradually afterwards until the spring is fully operational.
He noted that prior assessments indicated that the spring sustained heavy damage and that a full assessment of its condition will start on Sunday morning.