Syrian opposition controls most border points with Iraq

By Ahmed Kwider

March 18, 2013

A Kurdish opposition group opened up its own crossing point on the Iraq-Syria border last week, as the regime appeared to be losing its grip along the 605 km frontier between the countries.

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This map shows the four border points along the Iraq border. All but al-Tanf in Homs province are now under the control of Syrian opposition forces.

The Free Syrian Army continues to hold on to two of the remaining three frontier posts on the porous border.

“There is a total of four crossing points now,” said Raman Hasu, a 22-year-old student and opposition activist living in Syria’s northeastern Hasaka province, which borders Iraq.

The new Dirik crossing point was recently opened by the PYD after government forces retreated from the largely Kurdish areas around it.

“This border point is being used now for getting food supplies to civilians,” said Hasu.

According to Hasu, the Dirik crossing point is a way out for Syrians who have lost their homes and seen their villages destroyed.

“Young people travel to Iraq looking for decent jobs after they lost their employment because of the regime and the war,” he said.

While Dirik is controlled by anti-Assad PYD forces, some villages in Hasaka are being reinforced by the PKK, seen by the opposition as acting in concert with the government.

Husu described the second crossing point between al-Bukamal in Syria and al-Qa'im in Iraq as separated by long fence and with small orchards on either side. According to Hasu, Iraqi villagers have built homes adjacent to the border fence.

“I was in al-Bukamal when the FSA liberated it,” said Abed Alrahman al-Saleh, a spokesman for the FSA’s military council in Deir e-Zor. “The FSA is running the borders now.”

Al-Saleh said the FSA targeted the border posts because of the “Iraqi government’s huge support for the regime.” 

Reports last week suggested Iraqi troops were killed and injured in a skirmish near the Ya'rubiyah crossing.

“In recent days, there were provocative acts from the Iraqi forces against the FSA. But our forces that control these crossing points sent a strong letter to the Iraqi government warning that any attempt to enter Syrian lands will result in a painful reply,” said al-Saleh.

The FSA claimed the capture of the Ya'rubiyah crossing point in al-Hasakah province on March 1. FSA sources allege that Assad forces were supplied at the crossing with materiel transmitted by the Iraqi army.

Sources confirm that al-Tanf crossing point in Homs province is the sole post remaining under government control.

“The regime is deploying many forces to protect this crossing point, as it is the last one,” said Omar Abu Laila, an FSA spokesman in Eastern Jabha.

 Al-Tanf functions more as a general cargo crossing than a transit point for civilian passenger traffic.

“Crossing is easy in al-Qa'im and al-Ya’rubiyah, while at al-Tanf it is dangerous,” Abu Laila said.