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Road to recovery: Syria opens two key crossings with Jordan, Israel

Syrian soldiers lean out of the windows of their bus at Jdaidet Yabous a crossing point on the Syrian-Lebanese border, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Damascus, the Syrian capital, Tuesday, April 26, 2005 as they celebrate their return from Lebanon. Syri
AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi
The Syrian government recently reclaimed the crossings from rebels in a Russian-brokered deal

Two key border crossings with Syria’s neighbors Israel and Jordan reopened Monday in an important achievement for President Bashar al-Assad as he seeks to rebuild the country.

The Jaber-Nasib crossing between Jordan and Syria reopened first thing Monday morning, with the Quneitra crossing in Israel's Golan Heights following shortly after.

Previously two of of the most important trade routes for the government, their opening is a victory for the Syrian government which, backed by Russia, has recaptured large swaths of territory from rebels after seven years of civil war.

The only crossing point between Syria and Israeli-controlled territory, the Quneitra crossing reopened four years after closing due to the civil war on the Syrian side.

Two United Nations white jeeps crossed into Israeli-controlled territory through the reopened crossing near Quneitra in the Golan Heights after a deal between Israel, Syria and the UN.

Last week, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the United Nations, Israel and Syria had reached an agreement to reopen the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights.

"The United States welcomes the re-opening of this crossing, which will allow UN peacekeepers to step up their efforts to prevent hostilities in the Golan Heights region," Nikki Haley said in a statement.

On the Syria-Jordan border Monday morning, several cars bearing Jordanian license plates queued to enter Syria as travellers expressed their joy at being able to cross the border.

"Today is a celebration for us and I wanted to be among the first to cross the border," said Syrian businessman Mohammed Hisham as he waited for his turn to enter Syria from Jordan where he now lives.

Jordanian taxi driver Imad Sariheen called the reopening of Jaber a source of "great happiness for all of us" which will help ease "economic hardships" caused by the closure of the crossing.

"Our conditions have worsened over the past years. Our work (driving taxis) was halted because of the closure of the border between Jordan and Syria," he added.

The Nasib-Jaber crossing was a key route to Middle East trade before Amman closed it in 2015 after the post was overrun by rebels.

The reopening, first announced by Jordanian officials on Sunday, comes after Syrian government troops retook their side of the crossing in July under a deal with rebel fighters.

The crossing was one of the busiest border crossings in the region and the main crossing for Syrian exports to Jordan and the Gulf states.

It is an important step for the Syrian government's reconstruction and remaining efforts to reestablish control as the post was a key link not only for direct trade between the neighboring countries but also for longer-distance transit, which was a significant source of revenue.

“This was a crucial artery of trade between Jordan and Syria and transit to other countries,” said Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat.

In Quneitra, the UN Disengagement Observer Force, which monitors a ceasefire line separating Israeli-occupied parts of the Golan Heights from Syria, resumed its patrols in the area in August.

UNDOF had withdrawn from the area in 2014 when Al-Qaeda-linked rebels overran the area. The return of the 1,000 some troops was made possible after Syrian government troops retook the Syrian side of the crossing in July, as part of a deal with rebel fighters brokered by Russia.

It had been sealed completely since rebels overran it in April 2015, choking off one of the most important trade routes for the government.

Ariel Hermoni, Ministry of Defense

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the Israeli side of the Quneitra crossing on September 27 and announced that Israel had been making the relevant preparations in order to open the crossing.

“We said from the outset that we have no interest in meddling in the civil war inside Syria, we have never intervened and our interest is to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel,” Liberman told a crowd at the crossing.

Liberman said that the UNDOF had begun to operate and patrol the area with the assistance of the IDF once again, announcing that as far as Israel was concerned, they were ready to open the crossing as before.

In the past, Druze farmers in the Golan Heights relied on the crossing to export apples to Syria.

Despite these key posts and the recent sweeping territorial gains, Syrian forces have so far only regained control of around half of the country's crossings with neighbors Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey.


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