How Have Assad’s Forces Exploited the Cease-fire in Eastern Ghouta?

Activists report regime forces and allied militias make a push in the Damascus countryside despite a U.N.-brokered cease-fire deal

President Bashar al-Assad's forces and allied militias took control of an agricultural institute building in the Fadaeyeh area on the Marj front in the Damascus countryside on Monday.

The capture of the building followed heavy clashes against opposition factions affiliated with the “joint operations room” in the Eastern Ghouta region.

Al-Souria’s correspondent in the Damascus countryside, Nebuchadnezzar, reported that “the fall of the agricultural institute building will affect the villages of Nashabiyeh, Harasta al-Qanatra and Beit Nayem, after opening the road for Assad’s forces, which had cut the route between the town of Harasta and the village of Beit Nayem.”

He added that Assad’s forces “exploited the cease-fire which started about three days ago under international sponsorship to make advances in the Marj area in Eastern Ghouta after several consecutive failed attempts from three main directions — Tel Farzat, Balaliya and Harasta al-Qanatra.”

Speaking to Al-Souria Net, media activist Abu al-Hadi al-Doumani said: “Assad’s forces put all their capabilities and military weight into gaining control [of the district], especially of the strategic Tel Farzat, which overlooks wide areas of Eastern Ghouta, while simultaneously hitting the area with heavy artillery and rocket fire.”

He said: “Assad’s forces are trying to clear Ghouta’s residents from large swaths of agricultural land, expel thousands of families and put heavy pressure on fighters to acquiesce to the regime’s terms.” At the same time, he said that “if not for Russian air support Assad’s forces would not have been able to advance 5 kilometers in four months of clashes against opposition factions.”

Doumani said that if completed, the control of Assad’s forces of Tel Farzat will give them an advantage in retaking the remaining villages in the Marj area. “The regime is now working to fix and fortify the positions it recently seized to turn them into launching pads toward the village of Balaa Gharba, and then to the east, toward the villages of Zabadeen, Deir al-Asafir, and Harasta al-Qantara.”

Opposition factions in the Damascus countryside resorted to carrying out swift, targeted and unexpected attacks against positions held by Assad’s forces and sectarian militias, which are trying to tighten the noose on the towns and villages of Eastern Ghouta, besieged for over three years, from more than one direction simultaneously, including from the Balaliya front, Nashabiyeh and Harasta al-Qantara.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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