Rebels aim for Syria-Jordan
border crossing

The Syrian regime's last crossing with Jordan in Nasib is now the target of a rebel offensive.


BEIRUT – Rebels fighting in southern Syria have in the past two weeks advanced on the strategic prize of Nasib, the last remaining border crossing with Jordan still in regime hands.


On October 17, rebels launched the Ahl al-Aazm campaign in a bid to capture a series of key regime checkpoints on the international highway linking Damascus to Jordan.


London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi daily on October 19 reported that “the strategic objective of the battle is to liberate the Nasib border crossing as well as the bridge that connects the town of Al-Teebeh with Umm al-Mayadin.”


A Syrian media activist told the pan-Arab newspaper that top Free Syrian Army brigades were engaged in the battle, including the Yarmouk Army, Omari Brigades and FSA Commandos among others.


On October 23, rebels seized the Umm al-Mayadin checkpoint as well as points in Kaziyyah and Maasira, bringing them closer to the regime’s last lifeline into Jordan.


Al-Jazeera cited rebels as saying that regime troops had been using the Umm al-Mayadin checkpoint as a “first defense line” for Nasib.


However, the station’s correspondent in Jordan voiced doubt that rebels would seize the border crossing anytime soon.


Rebels optimistic


“The battle to reach the crossing will continue. It only stopped for a few days for military and tactical reasons connected to […] preparations for the [final attack],” Falluja Houran squadron commander Abu Hadi told Arabic-language news website Al-Araby al-Jadeed on Friday. 


“The goal of controlling the Nassib crossing area is to expel regime forces from all of Daraa province’s border strip.”


This, he said, would leave opposition forces “free to fight [the regime] on other fronts.”


“Opposition [fighters] are enforcing a near siege on the border crossing, and they could advance […] at any moment,” the rebel leader boasted.


Abu Hadi also denied that Jordan was applying pressure on rebels to not seize the crossing. “Jordan has not interfered in the progress of battles in Syria, and it is not now.”


Ayman al-Asemi a member of the Free Syrian Army’s military council told the website he expected the crossing to fall very soon.


“The fall of the crossing is a matter of time, and it won’t be long. It might not be more than ten days.”


He also referred to “a green light from neighboring countries,” in a hint that Amman would not try to stop takeover of the crossing.


“The effectiveness of the crossing ended with the fall of those checkpoints,” Assemi added in reference to the recent victories by opposition forces in the area.


“The crossing is virtually closed today and access to it is unsafe.”


He also echoed Abu Hadi’s statement concerning the province as a whole, telling the website that taking the checkpoint would be “a preliminary step to expulsion [of the regime] from Daraa as a whole.”


Southern Syria heats up


The Nasib advance comes amid the broader rebel campaign against regime forces in southern Syria, which has escalated in recent weeks. Al-Nusra Front took a lead role in an offensive in the Golan border area between Syria, Israel and Lebanon, seizing the Quneitra crossing on August 27. Since then they have pressed their military advantage, seizing most of the Quneitra border area by mid-September.


These advances were quickly followed up by an offensive in the Daraa province in which rebels attacked the strategic Tell al-Harrah outpost on October 5, where the regime stationed a radar base. Rebels also captured a number of villages in the area.


Jordan stepped-up security in late September, bolstering measures along the border to prevent infiltration. Although Jordan did not officially specify what steps they had taken, the official Petra News Agency said the country’s security forces were “closely monitoring the situation in several neighboring countries.”


As fighting has picked up along the border, a Jordanian patrol was targeted October 29 by cross-border gunfire, leaving one soldier wounded, Jordan’s military said in a statement.


Trade implications


The Nasib border crossing remains one of Syria’s key trade routes as the regime has lost control over large swathes of its border with Iraq and Turkey. Trucks regularly travel through the checkpoint laden with goods headed for Jordan and the broader Gulf market.


Recent fighting, however, has had a direct effect on this trade. On October 21, several trucks coming from Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley came under fire in southern Syria, leaving a number injured and hundreds stranded.


Beqaa Farmers Gathering chief Ibrahim Tarnishi told Voice of Lebanon (93.3) radio that “around 250 Lebanese and Syrian trucks were in the area when the battles started,” adding that a number of the trucks were set ablaze.


The fighting sparked calls for Lebanese exporters to stop using the route leading into Syria.

Jordan's Jaber border crossing with Syria's Nasib. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

The fall of the crossing is a matter of time, and it won’t be long. It might not be more than ten days.