MESOP Syria Daily: Regime & Hezbollah Press Offensive Near Damascus

May 22 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview -The Assad regime and Hezbollah continued their offensive near Syria’s capital Damascus on Saturday, hoping to complete the capture of the southern part of the East Ghouta area.Enabled by rebel in-fighting and the move of Hezbollah forces from the rest of Syria, the regime won its first notable victory in months last week with the capture of a series of villages, including Deir as-Safir and Zibdeen.On Saturday, Hezbollah and the Syrian Army — including units of the Republican Guards and the 4th Mechanized Division — attacked the last rebel-controlled village in southern East Ghouta, Harasta al-Quntara.The opposition has held East Ghouta since 2012, but defenses have been weakened by battles between the laading faction Jaish al-Islam and the groups Failaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Fustat, linked to the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra. After weeks of fighting, with casualties on both sides, a tentative ceasefire was reached earlier this month. However, it soon broke down, and pro-Assad forces seized the opportunity to strike.

On Saturday, the rebel factions approached another truce with an exchange of prisoners. Failaq al-Rahman released 18 Jaish al-Islam members, while Jaish al-Islam handed over nine Failaq al-Rahman detainees.

Regime Forces Attack Besieged Darayya Again, Rebels Claim Assault Repelled

Pro-Assad forces have again tried to enter Darayya, the town southwest of Damascus which has been besieged since November 2012.

Regime aircraft bombarded Darayya throughout the day and night, but rebels said they repelled the ground offensive, causing significant casualties.

On May 12, the Syrian military turned back a UN convoy which was trying to deliver the first aid to the town in 3 1/2 years. People gathered for the assistance were shelled, killing a father and son and injuring five others.