Photo: AP
UN observers at the Quneitra crossing
Photo: AP

Israel-Syria border crossing reopened after 4 years

Quneitra border crossing in the Golan Heights opens its gates to UN peacekeeping force after UNDOF decides to return to area; Syria also reopens vital crossing with Jordan.

The Israel-Syria Quneitra border crossing in the Golan Heights was reopened on Monday morning, four years after it was closed because of the civil war raging in the country.



The crossing, which was mostly used by the Druze population in the Golan Heights, was opened to UN observers only. The UN observers had left the Quneitra crossing in 2014 for the first time since deploying there in 1974 to monitor a cease-fire and a demilitarized zone.


The IDF's coordinator with the UN forces said that Israel will examine allowing others through the crossing at a later stage.


UN forces return to Syria through the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AP)
UN forces return to Syria through the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AP)

Maj. Nehemia Barki said the reopening of the crossing "symbolizes the reentry of UN forces to the buffer zone in Syria, and the preservation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement. We expect the UN to return to enforcing the ceasefire arrangements."


UN observers and local notables from the Druze community gathered near the crossing on Monday for the reopening ceremony.


"It is a day of victory," Youssef Jarbou, a Druze leader, told the Syrian Al-Ikhbariya TV from Quneitra.


Meanwhile, Jordan and Syria have also reopened a vital border crossing between the two countries, three years after the commercial lifeline fell to rebel groups and traffic was halted.


The reopening of the crossings is a major boost to the Syrian government, keen on sending messages to its citizens and the world that it is slowly emerging victorious from the bloody conflict and beginning to restore vital services and relations.


UN forces return to Syria through the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AP)
UN forces return to Syria through the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AP)


The IDF announced Sunday that the United Nations has decided to return its peacekeeping force, known as UNDOF, to the Quneitra crossing area. The crossing will be used exclusively for UN forces, it added.


Syrian forces recaptured the Quneitra area in July. Russian military police deployed in the area, including on the edge of the Israeli Golan Heights, setting up checkpoints in the area. Moscow said it planned to work closely with the UN force.


Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War, with UNDOF deployed in the area in 1974.


UN forces return to Syria through the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AP)
UN forces return to Syria through the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AP)


Reopening the crossing with Jordan would bring major relief to President Bashar Assad's government by restoring a much-needed gateway for Syrian exports to Arab countries. It is also expected to boost its coffers as the government is expected to collect transit fees from convoys coming from Jordan. Last month, it hiked fees for all trailers transiting through its territories.


The resumption of commercial trade through the crossing will also be a diplomatic victory for Assad, whose government has been isolated from its Arab neighbors since the war began in 2011.


Arab countries have boycotted the Syrian government since the early days of the war, freezing its membership in the 22-member state Arab League.


The Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AFP)
The Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing (Photo: AFP)


Jordan government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said the Naseeb crossing would be opened Monday after operational details have been agreed upon, according to the Jordanian Petra news agency. Syria's Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar also confirmed the crossing's reopening, according to Syria's state news agency.


"The Naseeb crossing is a vital lifeline for trade between the two brotherly countries Jordan and Syria through them to other Arab countries," Ghunaimat said, according to Petra. Rebels seized the crossing in 2015, disrupting a major trade route between Syria and Jordan, Lebanon and oil-rich Gulf countries.


The two governments had earlier issued conflicting reports of when the crossing would open.


Syrian troops recaptured it in July this year after rebels reached an agreement with Russian mediators to end the violence in the southern province of Daraa and surrender the crossing.


The crossing is also vital for Syria's neighboring Lebanon, providing its agricultural products a route to foreign markets.


The recapture of Naseeb crossing marked a major victory for Assad's forces, which have been on a winning streak since 2015 when Russia threw its military weight behind Damascus. The victory in southern Syria signaled the return of his forces to Daraa province where the uprising against him began seven years ago.


Fighting has subsided across most of Syria, but in the absence of a political deal, more than 40 percent of the country's territory remains in the hands of armed opposition and their foreign supporters.


Ahiya Raved contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 10.15.18, 13:20
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