Syrian rebels capture border post near Jordan

Control of Ramtha crossing changes hands after days of fighting that has left 26 soldiers and several rebels dead.

The Ramtha border crossing between Syria and Jordan has been closed for nearly two years now [AP]

Syrian rebels, including members of an al-Qaeda-linked group, have captured a military post on the border with Jordan after four days of fighting, according to an activist group.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 26 government soldiers were killed in Saturday’s battle as well as a number of rebels, including seven foreign fighters.

The Ramtha post served in the past as the customs office on the border with Jordan.

It was turned into an army post years ago.

The post is on the outskirts of the southern city of Deraa where the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March 2011.

The uprising later turned into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, according to the UN.

Symbolic victory

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Jordan, said the importance of the rebels’ victory remains merely symbolic.

“The border crossing has been closed for nearly two years now. It was closed while it was under the control of the Syrian army,” she said.

“So it definitely won’t be opened by Jordan now, especially that the rebels who captured it are not part of the Saudi-backed military council in Deraa, whom Jordan had some security coordination with.”

Officials in Jordan refused to comment on the takeover, saying they would not issue statements on events that are taking place on the side of a sovereign state outside their territory.

The Naseeb-Jaber border crossing is the only operational post between Syria and Jordan. The Syrian side of it is under the control of the Syrian army.

There is close coordination between the governments in Amman and Damascus on security maintenance at the crossing.

Rebels control multiple areas along the borders with Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon as well as the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The clashes in Syria comes a day after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

The vote late was the first resolution passed on the Syrian conflict since it began 30 months ago, after Russia and China had previously vetoed three Western-backed resolutions pressuring President Bashar Assad’s regime to end the violence.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, told the council immediately after the vote that he aimed to hold long-sought talks aimed at organising a political transition in Syria in mid-November.

“All violence must end. All the guns must fall silent,” Ban said as he hailed the “historic resolution” on Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, stressing it was not “a licence to kill” with conventional arms.

Shortly before the vote, the UN said its team of weapons experts currently in Syria would investigate seven sites of alleged chemical attacks in the country, four more than previously known.

The team initially visited Syria last month to investigate three alleged chemical attacks this year. But just days into the visit, the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta was hit by a chemical strike, and the inspectors turned their attention to that case.

Sarin use confirmed

The UN inquiry determined that the nerve agent sarin was used in the August 21 attack, but it did not assess who was behind it.

The investigators currently in Syria expect to finalise its activities in the country by Monday, a UN statement said.

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog adopted on Thursday a US-Russian plan that lays out benchmarks and timelines for cataloguing, quarantining and ultimately destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, their precursors and delivery systems.

The Security Council resolution enshrines the plan approved by Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), making it legally binding.

The agreement allows the start of a mission to rid Syria’s regime of its estimated 1,000-tonne chemical arsenal by mid-2014, significantly accelerating a destruction timetable that often takes years to complete.

The OPCW decision calls for a team of experts responsible for tracking down Syria’s stockpile to be in Damascus by Tuesday.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies