Who controls Syrian border crossings?

Very few border points into Syria are under control of government forces, so which armed group controls each crossing?

al-monitor Islamist fighters man a checkpoint at the Syrian border crossing of Bab al-Hawa, at the Syrian-Turkish border, Idlib governorate, Dec. 20, 2013.  Photo by REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah.

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turkey, syria, islamists, free syrian army, border

Jul 17, 2014

Who is controlling the Syrian border crossings?

The UN Security Council’s resolution to allow the entry of aid to Syria without the government’s permission raises many questions regarding the feasibility of its implementation, given that a number of border crossings are not under the Syrian state’s authority. Many are controlled by different factions, according to their region of control and ability to face the other armed militias in the region. There are many non-regime crossings which are considered as dangerous to cross as the other dangers in the conflict of this country.

A tour of the border crossings reveals the state of these areas and the parties controlling them.

In the south, Nasib crossing is considered the official main crossing to Jordan and is still under the Syrian state’s control. Jabhat al-Nusra tightened its grip on the Gumruk crossing, pushing Jordan to close it down and ask the members of the Free Syrian Army [FSA] in the Daraa countryside not to move toward Nasib crossing so that Jabhat al-Nusra does not take it over.

There are non-regime crossings in west Daraa [southern Syria], the main two being at Tell Chehab and Badiya in Suweida. The latter faces the Jordanian city of Ruwayshid, where the members of the Jordanian intelligence and armed groups are deployed to make it easier for refugees to pass, for weapons to enter and for the leaders of the FSA to move around. However, the Jordanian authorities have closed these crossings many times.

The border crossings with Lebanon seem to be in relatively better condition. The Jdaidet Yabws, Arida, al-Dabousiya and Jousiya points are under the control of the Syrian government and therefore under tight security measures. Jdaidet Yabws-Masnaa crossing is considered the most busy due to daily commuters to Lebanon and those traveling through to Beirut International Airport. The unofficial crossings stretch from Zabadani [northwest of Damascus, near the Lebanese border town of Anjar] and Madaya in Wadi Barda through Assal al-Ward in Qalamoun [near the northeast Lebanese border], Yabrud and Qarah and reach Arsal and Toufeil in the Lebanese territories, in addition to the crossings in the southern suburbs of Homs in Qusair, mainly Tell Kalakh.

The situation is more complicated along the Turkish borders due to the large number of crossings. Armed groups control four crossings and Kurds control one crossing, while the Syrian army has recently retaken Kassab crossing in Latakia.

The People’s Protection Units (YPG) [Kurdish armed forces in northern Syria] control Ain Arab crossing, Ras al-Ain outlet in Hasakah and Ain Diwar in the extreme northwest, at the mouth of Tigris river. Meanwhile, the Turkish authorities closed a crossing in Qamishli two years ago.

The remaining crossings are Bab al-Hawa in Idlib and Bab al-Salam in Aleppo [in the north of Syria], and they are under the control of the Islamic Front.

Jarablos and Tell Abyad crossings are under the grip of the Islamic State (IS). The Turkish authorities had shut them down after IS took control of them, although they have still, occasionally, allowed people a one-time pass to the Syrian territories.

In the east, on the Iraqi border, there are three crossings: Yaarabiya, Abu Kamal and Tanf.

The first is in Hasakah and is controlled by the leaders of the YPG. Abu Kamal crossing has been dysfunctional for almost two years and the authorities in Baghdad forbid people from crossing there. Tanf is the only outlet here under the Syrian government’s control.

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