Ceasefire under fire: Shells rain down in Daraa, Ghouta

Ceasefire under fire: Shells rain down in Daraa, Ghouta
Opposition activists say around 30,000 civilians are besieged by pro-regime forces in a rebel-held town in Daraa, close to the Jordanian border. In East Ghouta regime forces are also advancing.
2 min read
09 January, 2017
Syria's south-wstern Daraa governorate has not been spared in Syria's vicious civil war [AFP]

Violent clashes took place on Sunday between rebel and pro-regime forces around the besieged municipality of Muhaja in Syria's south-western Daraa province, with pro-regime forces also advancing on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of East Ghouta.

Pro-regime forces had imposed a blockade on Muhaja which opposition forces were desperately trying to break, a pro-opposition activist "Abu Mohammad Hourani" told The New Arab's Arabic website, using a pseudonym.

The focus of the battle centres on control of the international road linking Damascus with Jordanian territory in the Lajat area of Daraa, with both sides exchanging rocket fire and shelling.

Earlier this week a local council based in Muhaja released a statement saying that residents in the town were living in "fear and horror" because of attacks on the area perpetrated by the Syrian government, expressing concern that due to the siege basic food substances such as flour could run out, warning of an "inevitable disaster".

Hourani said that despite a nationwide ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia, which came into place in late December, pro-regime forces had begun shelling Muhaja, and installing checkpoints on roads leaving the town, leading opposition forces to respond. 

The local activist added that around 30,000 civilians were besieged in Muhaja. 

In the past few days opposition forces have destroyed two regime tanks, an armoured car mounted with a machine gun, and killed and wounded "dozens" of pro-regime gunmen, including a captain from a pro-regime Palestinian militia, according to another local activist who spoke to The New Arab under the pseudonym "Ahmad al-Musalaha".

In East Ghouta, local activists told The New Arab on Sunday that pro-regime forces were advancing on Marj from north of the Hazarma municipality after launching a new attack on rebel positions in the area, with sporadic clashes also taking place in Maidani, also in East Ghouta.

Elsewhere in Damascus governorate clashes between pro-regime and opposition troops were reported in the contested Wadi Barada valley, where around 45,000 civilians are said to face a regime-imposed siege, according to UN statistics.