Syrian opposition forces seize Iraqi and Turkish border posts
As the battle for Damascus grinds bloodily on, and the world powers dither and dally in Geneva, elements of the Free Syrian Army appear to have taken matters into their own hands and have seized a number of important border crossings in the embattled country.
In a daring and coordinated assault that suggests President Assad’s grip on the country is slipping, opposition forces have taken key crossings to the north and east of the country, bordering Turkey and Iraq respectfully.
As Assad and the government forces are distracted by the ongoing struggle in Damascus, reports are coming out of the country that opposition forces have taken control of the Abu Kamal crossing on the Euphrates River bordering Iraq, a major trade route in the Middle East. The Abu Kamal crossing reportedly fell to the Free Syrian Army after a struggle that resulted in the deaths of 20 Syrian government soldiers and their commander.
To the north of Syria, near the Turkish border, opposition forces are now claiming to be in control of the international crossings at Jarabulus to the north, and Bab al-Hawa, to the northwest of the country.
After taking control of Bab al-Hawa, members of the Syrian Free Army were reported to be dismantling border computer systems and seizing security records, as well as emptying the shelves of the duty-free shop.
Despite making sweeping advances on the country’s frontiers, there are conflicting reports as to the level of success the Syrian Free Army has enjoyed. Some reports allege that opposition fighters are in control of the entire eastern border, whilst others claim that government forces still have a firm hold on two major border crossings, including the port city of al-Walid.
Opposition gains may also be tarnished by allegations of brutality. On the taking of Abu Kamal, the Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister, Adnan al-Assadi, is quoted as stating that the Syrian Free Army detained a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, cut off his arms and then “executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers”. The allegations are yet to be substantiated.
As a response to the widening conflict, Iraq has moved its army to within a short distance of the Syria-Iraq border, placing its army near the town of al-Qaim.