Syrian army takes water spring near Damascus: Hezbollah-run media

BEIRUT (REUTERS) - Syrian government forces entered the village of Ain al-Fija near Damascus on Saturday (Jan 28) and took control from rebels of a spring and pumping station that supply most of the capital's water, a military media unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said.

A monitoring group said the Syrian army had not yet entered the village, but was expected to under a deal reached with rebels who have been fighting to hold the area they have controlled for years.

The Wadi Barada valley where Ain al-Fija is located has become the most intense battlefront in the Syrian civil war and the disruption to water supplies has caused severe shortages in Damascus since the beginning of the year.

"The Syrian army has entered Ain al-Fija ... and raised the Syrian flag over the spring installation," the Hezbollah media unit's statement said. It said this was part of a deal reached with insurgents, who under the agreement would depart the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said a deal was expected to take effect which would see rebels leave with light weapons for the north-western province of Idlib, an insurgent stronghold.

The army had not yet entered Ain al-Fija, or taken over the spring or pumping station, the British-based Observatory said.

Syrian government forces and their allies, which include Hezbollah, have advanced on the area in Wadi Barada in weeks of intense fighting, seeking to recapture the spring and pumping station.