Syria rebels give truce brokers 48 hours to end regime offensive

Sunday 22/05/2016
Assad forces are preparing major operation within next few days

BEIRUT - Rebel groups Sunday set a 48-hour deadline for the US and Russian sponsors of a February ceasefire in Syria's conflict to halt a regime offensive in the Damascus region.
"We are giving the sponsors of the ceasefire 48 hours to rescue what remains of the accord and to force the criminal regime of (President Bashar al-) Assad and his allies to completely and immediately halt their brutal offensive against Daraya and Eastern Ghouta," 29 rebel groups said in a statement.
"In view of the regime's offensive against all the liberated regions, in particular Daraya... we consider the ceasefire accord to have totally collapsed," the groups said.
"Rebel groups will take all possible measures and respond with all means to defend our people and on all fronts until the regime totally halts its offensives against all liberated regions, especially Daraya, and pulls back to its pre-May 14 positions," they said.
Syria's army, backed by Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah, on Thursday recaptured the town of Deir al-Assafir and nine nearby villages in the Damascus region, taking advantage of clashes in the Eastern Ghouta area between rival rebel groups Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman which were among those listed on the joint statement.
Hundreds of families fled the area, which Islamist rebels had controlled since 2012.
The town of Daraya, also near the capital, was one of the first to erupt in demonstrations against the government in 2011. It has been under a strict regime siege since late 2012.
The rebel groups urged the international community and friendly nations "to act to save Daraya from genocide".
Anti-regime group the Local Coordinating Committees said Sunday clashes were taking place in suburbs of Daraya, and the pro-regime Al-Masdar website said the army "is preparing a major operation" to capture it within the next few days.
The political opposition Coalition said in a statement it backs the decisions of rebel groups and "supports their demands".