BEIRUT (AP) — 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.
The capture of the Nasib crossing — a crucial gateway for the Syrian government — is the latest in a series of setbacks for President Bashar Assad’s forces in the past week. Fighters led by the Nusra Front seized the government-held city of Idlib in northwestern Syria and a major town, Busra Sham, in the south.
The Jordanian government closed the Nasib crossing Tuesday night for security reasons, as rebels clashed with Syrian forces on the other side. The rebels seized the crossing within 24 hours.
On Thursday, a plume of thick, black smoke was seen billowing from the Syrian side of the border with Jordan, as Syrian warplanes struck the area. An Associated Press cameraman said dozens of trucks were stranded on the Jordanian side and customs officials have been prevented from going to their offices.
Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an opposition activist based in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, said rebels completed “combing” operations in the area along the border early Thursday, adding that government forces withdrew in the direction of the nearby Sweida province.
Syrian state TV, however, 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.