MESOP UPDATE SYRIA : THE “NON-CEASEFIRE” GOING ON – Rebels Freeze Political Talks Over Regime’s Breaking of Ceasefire

January 03 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview –  UPDATE 1130 GMT: The rebel faction Jaish al-Islam has said that it will move fighters to the besieged and attacked Wadi Barada pocket, northwest of the capital. While the statement did not give details about the deployment, the fighters could be used to attack the regime and Hezbollah units surrounding Wadi Barada as well as a nearby Iranian headquarters. The troops would be moved from the eastern Qalamoun mountains, northeast of Damascus. UPDATE 0825 GMT: Civil society groups in Wadi Barada, under attack and siege by pro-Assad forces, have again called on international organizations to intervene for a ceasefire.

A statement issued late Monday asked for deployment of international observers and assurance of the supply of food, medicines, and building materials.

The groups said they are ready to cooperate with an international inquiry to confirm the cause of the damage of facilities providing most of Damascus’s water.

The pro-Assad attacks have put a pumping station out of service, but the Assad regime has covered its assault with the pretext that rebels “poisoned” the al-Fija springs with diesel fuel.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Syria’s rebels have frozen discussions about negotiations over the Assad regime’s breaking of the five-day national ceasefire.

The rebel groups said Monday that they are suspending any consideration of their involvement in political talks, brokered by Russia and Turkey, in Kazakhstan next month.

A statement said, “The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations.” It cited the ongoing pro-Assad attempt trying to overrun Wadi Barada, northwest of Damascus, and attacks on other areas, as it questioned whether Russia can force compliance of the Assad regime and its allies.

Moscow and Ankara announced the agreement last Thursday with both rebels and the Assad regime. However, pro-Assad forces never stopped their three-week assault on the Wadi Barada area.

Shelling and airstrikes continued Monday on the area of 10 villages and about 100,000 people, which is strategically significant because its al-Fija springs provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. Regime airstrikes and shelling damaged the pumping station more than a week ago, limiting supplies to more than 4 million people to hours per day. Yesterday a bomb landed less than 120 meters from the facility.

The Assad regime has justified the attacks by claiming that they are on the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, because it is excluded like the Islamic State from the truce.However, it has provided no evidence of a renewed JFS/Nusra presence in an area which the jihadist group left in late 2015. In addition, rebels say the version of the agreement which they signed did not exclude JFS/Nusra from the ceasefire.

Attacks and clashes have occurred elsewhere near Damascus and in northwest Syria. A pro-Assad website has not only hailed the ongoing assault by the Syrian military and militias in the East Ghouta area, northeast of Damascus; it has acknowledged that the offensive is against the rebel faction Jaish al-Islam, which is covered by the ceasefire.