Rebels Strengthen Hold on Al-Hasakah, High Tensions on Iraq-Syria Border

March 4, 2013

By Ahmed Kwider

The Free Syrian Army claimed control of substantial parts of Al-Hasakah province Monday and rebels say they drove government troops to the other side of the Iraqi border.

The seizure of the border crossing with Iraq on Friday has more than symbolic value for the FSA.

“Army vehicles gets their gas supply from Iraq. That’s why they dying to take the crossing point back again,” said Salah Kurdi, a rebel supporter and correspondent for opposition affiliated Sham News Network.

“The FSA now controls the eastern countryside and almost all of the western countryside,” Kurdi said.

“They also control Ras Al Ain city and more than 100 villages near to Tel Hammes,” he added.

According to Kurdi, ground clashes have ceased at the Ya’rubiyah border crossing and government forces fled into Iraq.

Meanwhile Iraqi forces have boosted their presence along the border with additional Hummer patrols armed with machine guns and intensified air reconnaissance over the area. 

“The crossing point is open far as the FSA is concerned and they do do not mind giving permission to civilians to enter the country,” said Kurdi.

“Cargo will be stopped and nothing will be delivered to the Syrian government,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi TV channel, Sharqia reported the crossing as closed and the Defense Ministry in Baghdad announced it had lost a soldier hit by gunfire from clashes on the Syrian side of the border.

The Defense Ministry spokesman in Baghdad told Sharqia TV that Syrian jets were using Iraqi airspace to manouvere around rebel held positions in the mountains.

“They only used our airspace for twenty minutes,” the spokesman explained.

Additional reporting by Bassam Hashem