by Scott Lucas – 11 March 016 – eaworldview – Assad forces defied a February 27 “cessation of hostilities” in attempts to seize opposition-held territory near Syria’s capital Damascus on Thursday.The Syrian military again attacked northeast of the capital in the al-Marj area, with reinforcements from other parts of the country. Pro-rebel sources say the assault was repelled by Jaish al-Islam and allied rebel units.
The Assad forces have made limited gains in al-Marj in the last two weeks, following the capture of the village and airbase at Marj al-Sultan in December.Jaish al-Islam said it held off the latest attacks from several directions on Bala and other villages
, killing more than 50 regime troops and destroying armored vehicles, including three T-72 tanks, and machine guns. The February 27 agreement allows attacks against the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State, but neither group is present in the East Ghouta area near Damascus.Despite a general reduction in violence since the cessation, there have been attacks across five provinces —- Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, Latakia, and Damascus — by pro-Assad foreign militias, the Syrian army, and regime and Russian warplanes.
In addition to the clashes near Damascus, the fighting has been most intense in northern Latakia Province as the pro-Assad forces try to reclaim the last rebel pockets in the area, putting pressure on neighboring, opposition-held Idlib Province. www.mesop.de