Syria opened two previously closed border crossings between two of its neighbors – Israel at Quneitra and Jordan at Jaber-Nasib – Monday, which some commentators view as a significant milestone for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Jaber-Nasib crossing between Jordan and Syria reopened first thing Monday morning, with the Quneitra crossing in Israel’s Golan Heights following shortly after.
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced last week that the Israel, the United Nations and Syria had reached an agreement to reopen the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights.
“The United States welcomes the re-opening of this crossing, which will allow UN peacekeepers to step up their efforts to prevent hostilities in the Golan Heights region,” Haley said in a statement. It should be highlighted that at this time, the crossing will only be used by UN forces who intend to cross from Syria to Israel and return.
After 4 years of inactivity, the Quneitra Crossing between #Israel & #Syria will reopen tomorrow for @UN forces. pic.twitter.com/AHp14Gdk7H
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) October 14, 2018
The Quneitra crossing has been closed since 2014, a result of the intensification of the internecine Syrian civil war. The IDF decided to close the crossing after Syrian rebels overtook old Quneitra and Global Jihad operatives belonging to Al-Qaeda took control of the area.
This limited reopening of the border comes amid a gradual winding down of the hostilities in Syria. One pocket of resistance to Assad’s brutal regime remains in the Idlib area, in the northwest of the country, approximately 40 miles southwest of Aleppo. As a result, the U.N. has decided to return United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) troops to the area. In late August 2014, Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front kidnapped more than 40 Fijian UNDOF troops, before releasing them unharmed two weeks later.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the Israeli side of the Quneitra crossing on September 27 and announced that Israel had been making the relevant preparations in order to open the crossing.
“We said from the outset that we have no interest in meddling in the civil war inside Syria, we have never intervened and our interest is to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel,” Liberman told a crowd at the crossing.
In addition to the Quneitra crossing, Jordanian officials announced Sunday that the Jaber-Nasib crossing would reopen. Amman closed it in 2015 after it was overrun by rebels, and until that time it had been one of the busiest border crossings in the region.