BEIRUT – Syrian rebels and fighters from the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front have captured the only functioning border crossing with Jordan and three nearby military posts, prompting government bombing raids on the area, activists said Thursday.
Ahmad al-Masalmeh, a Syrian opposition activist based in the southern city of Daraa, said militants completed “combing” operations in the area early Thursday, adding that government forces withdrew in the direction of the nearby Sweida province.
The Nasib crossing is the only functioning crossing between Jordan and Syria and is considered a crucial gateway for Syria’s government and for Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian traders and merchants.
Syrian state TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying that government forces have regrouped near the crossing and taken “positions in new military points.”
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement later saying that any use of the rebel-held crossing “will be considered illegitimate.” The ministry said Syria closed the crossing after Jordan took a similar step on Wednesday.
Al-Masalmeh said three armed factions spearheaded the offensive that captured Nasib and the nearby border guard posts known as 62, 63 and 67. He added that the Syrian government still controls a post known as the “Amman Brigade” east of Nasib.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said helicopter gunships attacked rebel positions in the area early Thursday.
An Associated Press cameraman on the Jordanian side of the border said the crossing was closed, adding that dozens of trucks are waiting and that customs officials have been prevented from going to their offices.
On Thursday morning, two large explosions and the sound of warplanes could be heard from the Syrian side.
In Damascus, a Palestinian official said Islamic State fighters were expelled from Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp south of the capital, hours after they stormed it from the nearby neighbourhood of Hajar Aswad.
Khaled Abdul-Majid, secretary of the follow-up committee of the Damascus-based allied Palestinian factions, told The Associated Press that reinforcement reached the camp to back the Palestinian faction called Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, which was battling the extremist group.
“There are now intermittent clashes between Hajar Aswad neighbourhood and the southern edge of Yarmouk camp,” he said.