Pro-Assad forces try to seize territory in eastern Suweida Province


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UPDATE 1330 GMT: Rebels claim that they shot down a regime MiG-21 warplane and damaged a helicopter, while reclaiming lost territory in eastern Suweida Province in southeast Syria.

The stricken helicopter was able to land at a regime base.

The rebels also claimed the destruction of two tanks and five armored vehicles and the killing of 60 pro-Assad troops.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: A US-Russia ceasefire in southwest Syria is under pressure after less than 48 hours, while pro-Assad forces are attacking opposition villages in the southeast of the country.

The US and Russia announced the start of the ceasefire — their first joint initiative for a truce — at noon Sunday. However, the US did not consult rebels and Russia took no apparent steps to hold back the Assad regime. By evening, regime shelling and firing of heavy machine guns was reported on villages in Quneitra and Daraa Provinces.

Then regime troops and Iranian-supported militia assaulted eight Bedouin villages in Suweida Province, seeking to extend control of desert stretching to the Iraqi border. Rebels said the offensive was backed by Russian airpower:

The regime supported by Iranian, Iraqi, and Lebanese militias launched an attack on our positions in the eastern countryside of Suweida, under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State organization.

The eight villages were captured by the Free Syrian Army in March, as they claimed more than 2,500 square km from a retreating Islamic State.

Mohammad Adnan, a rebel spokesman, said: “This is the biggest attack by the regime and on the villages of eastern Sweida. They have used all types of weapons from aerial bombing to artillery and an unprecedented ground offensive.”

Saed Saif, a Free Syrian official, asserted, “The Iranian Shi’ite militias are continuing to pour reinforcements into the Badia to expand their area of control. We are doing what we can to repel them.”

The regime army said several towns and villages had been occupied. Some pro-Assad accounts initally covered up the nature of the attacks by saying they were against the Islamic State, but by evening others were boasting of a “successful blitz campaign” against rebels.

The Free Syrian Army claimed on Tuesday morning that it had recaptured the lost territory, killing “dozens” of pro-Assad troops and destroying two tanks.

Meanwhile, in the supposed ceasefire zone, regime forces continued shelling across Quneitra and Daraa Provinces, according to activists: