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Syria: Clashes erupt after regime negotiator killed near Damascus

Ahmed al-Ghadban was killed by unidentified gunmen [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2017

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Syrian regime officials and rebels have accused one another of killing former army officer who brokered deal to restore water supply to Damascus.

Heavy clashes broke out between Syrian regime forces and rebel fighters near Damascus after the killing of a government negotiator, a monitor said Sunday.

The negotiator had brokered a deal to restore water supply to Damascus from a formerly rebel-held area of Wadi Barada.

"Fierce fighting broke out after midnight between regime forces, fighters from Hizballah and the rebels after gunmen killed the negotiator, Ahmed al-Ghadban," said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ghadban was on his way to the Ain al-Fijeh spring with water maintenance teams, he told AFP.

After Ghadban was killed, however, "regime forces and their allies tried to advance to Ain al-Fijeh," bombarding rebel positions with heavy artillery, said Abdel Rahman.

Government and rebel forces have accused one another of killing the retired army officer, who had resumed his duties restoring water supply just a day earlier.

The Syrian state's official SANA news agency reported on Saturday that "terrorists opened fire" on the negotiator after a meeting with armed groups in Ain al-Fijeh.

Activists in Wadi Barada, however, denounced the killing as an attempt by the regime to "kill any hope of a peaceful solution".

They also urged rebel factions in a joint statement not to attend peace talks scheduled for 23 January in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Wadi Barada has seen sustained clashes between government forces and rebels, despite the 30 December ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey.

Fighting in the area has damaged pipes and left over 5 million people in Syria's capital without water.

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