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Regime shelling near Damascus kills seven civilians: monitor

Ahmed al-Ghadban had been on his way to the main Ain al-Fijeh spring with government maintenance teams when he was killed.Syrian government forces Sunday advanced on the source of Damascus’s water supply in the Barada valley north-west of the capital, after pulling fix crews out following the killing of a mediator the previous night, pro-government sources said.Intense battles raged on Sunday in a water-rich valley northwest of Damascus, a day after a truce was breached by rebels’ killing of a government envoy, a military source said on condition of anonymity.Last week, the United Nations has warned that the water crisis afflicting the Syrian capital may constitute a war crime.Shami told AFP the government’s maintenance workers left Wadi Barada without completing the repairs, leaving 5.5 million in Damascus and its suburbs without water.Restoring water to Damascus has been the government priority ever since. Opposition organizations in the area said he had been killed at a government checkpoint.The Syrian government says Takfiri militants in Wadi Barada, including those from the Fateh al-Sham terror group, are deliberately cutting water supplies to the capital and its surroundings.Part of the deal also included the reconciliation with the rebels who accept the truce with the government, as such rebels will have their records cleared and will be tasked by the government to protect the Barada Valley.The escalating violence across Syria in recent days augurs ill for peace negotiations in Kazakhstan later this month.The truce deal walked on thorny road till it was reached on Wednesday, as the Nusra Front was among the rebels who attempted to repeatedly thwart any understanding with the government.Local officials said Friday that engineers had begun repairs to the plant as part of a broader deal that allowed the safe departure of some rebel fighters and a temporary truce with others while repairs were made.But the deal now in Barada has saved the nationwide ceasefire and also the upcoming talks, where hopes are pinned on achieving a breakthrough in the way to bring an end to the almost six-year-old war in Syria.The fighting in the Barada Valley has angered the Syrian opposition, which says it is a breach of a shaky ceasefire brokered by government ally Russian Federation and rebel backer Turkey that went into force at the end of last month.The ministry said the delegation was hosted by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also Russia’s presidential representative on the Middle East and Africa.Regime shelling of the Deir Qanun village killed seven civilians and wounded at least 20 other people, the Britain-based monitor said.The results of the negotiations in Kazakhstan would be submitted to the United Nations Security Council ahead of a round of political negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, which is scheduled for February 8.