The Islamist rebels of Ajnad Al-Sham and Jaysh Al-Islam have recently launched two major offensives near the state capital of Damascus, targeting the formerly reconciled cities of Harasta (East Ghouta) and Darayya (West Ghouta) amid the increased violence tainting these agricultural centers of the Rif Dimashq Governorate.
Ajnad Al-Sham is primarily responsible for the recent offensive at the city of Darayya, as the aforementioned Islamist group attacked a number of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) installations around the Darayya Association Quarter last week.
Despite Ajnad Al-Sham’s initial gains, however, the Syrian Arab Army was able to recapture a number of building blocks inside the Darayya Association Quarter, leaving the two parties stuck in a tense stalemate for this city located in the West Ghouta of the Rif Dimashq Governorate.
Darayya is an imperative city; if captured by the Islamist rebel forces, they will not only have access to the city of Damascus, but also, to the strategic Mezzeh Military Airport.
On the other side of Damascus sits the city of Harasta; it was once a rebel stronghold that erupted in protests during the inception of the Syrian Conflict of 2011.
With the Syrian Arab Army’s counter-offensive successfully capturing a significant amount of territory in the East Ghouta, the city of Harasta became surrounded and was eventually agreed upon by both the rebel and NDF units to reconcile.
Fast forward to early August 2015, Jaysh Al-Islam – led by Zahran Alloush – began an operation to retake this city, even though this violated the ceasefire and reconciliation agreement they originally signed.
At first, Jaysh Al-Islam made significant gains inside Harasta, capturing a strategic building in the army compound located in the northeastern sector of the city.
Unfortunately, Jaysh Al-Islam became overconfident; they pushed too close to the National Defense Forces (NDF) stronghold to the north, resulting in a counter-offensive to recapture the lost territory.
While the Syrian Armed Forces did not recapture all of their lost territory, they did recently make progress in the Al-Ajmi District and the Vehicle Management Center inside Harasta.
Both of these battles are still ongoing and they are proving extremely violent; but, the Islamist rebel forces have made it clear that they are not interested in any truce, but rather, victory in the state capital.