Fighting broke out east of Damascus between rebel and government forces Wednesday for the first time since both sides declared a cease-fire at the weekend, an activist group said, with airstrikes also hitting the besieged, rebel-controlled enclave.
Government troops clashed with fighters of the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group in the Ain Tarma district, on the western edge of Eastern Ghouta. The fighting subsided by Wednesday morning but government warplanes then carried out strikes in the area.
Faylaq al-Rahman is allied with former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper reported Monday that it was excluded from the truce.
Eastern Ghouta, the only major rebel-held area near the capital, has been blockaded by Syrian government forces since 2013. It has shrunk considerably in size over the past year as the Russia-backed Syrian army has taken control of other rebel-held areas around Damascus.
Russia dismissed reports of airstrikes Tuesday as “an absolute lie” meant to discredit its work in the de-escalation zone, which covers only part of Eastern Ghouta, a region that is a key opposition territory.
Russia and Iran, both supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebels fighting Syrian government forces, agreed on a plan in May to establish four “de-escalation” zones in Syria, pressing Assad’s air force to halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country.
Eastern Ghouta is the second of four proposed cease-fire zones to be implemented, after parts of the southern provinces of Deraa, Swaida and Qunaitra.