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Syrian rebels reportedly seize border crossings into Turkey, Iraq

July 19, 2012 |  1:31 pm

This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

Syrian rebels reportedly took over major border crossings to Turkey and Iraq on Thursday, a gain for the opposition fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group based in London, said rebels took control of the Turkish border crossing of Bab Hawa after Syrian forces retreated. The group also told Reuters that fighters had taken over the Abu Kamal gate near the Iraqi town of Qaim, a major transit point between the two countries, where amateur video showed the rebel flag hoisted over a building.

The video above, shared by opposition activists, shows rebel fighters firing their guns into the air and shouting, “God is great!” near a crossing station, purported to be the Bab Hawa gate into Turkey.

Other videos showed fighters pulling pictures of Assad and his father, the late Hafez Assad, off the walls at a building and stomping on them and torching the Baathist Syrian flag.

[Updated 2:04 pm July 19: The rebels later withdrew from controlling the Turkey crossing, a Free Syrian Army official said, holding it for just a few hours to videotape their accomplishment.

“We as the Free Syrian Army can’t hold an area for long, especially strategic areas like Bab Hawa,” Lt. Col. Khaled Hamoud told The Times. “But we showed the world that we were able to take over the Bab Hawa crossing.”]

An Iraqi general told the Associated Press that rebels had also taken over another border crossing into Iraq, at a remote outpost near the Sinjar mountain range. Twenty-one Syrian border guards were killed at the Sinjar post, Brig. Gen. Qassim Dulaimi told the news agency.

“If this situation continues, we are going to close the entire border with Syria,” Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Adnan Assadi told the Agence France-Presse news agency, describing Syrians being executed before the eyes of Iraqi soldiers.

Although rebels have already been smuggling weapons across the porous borders with Turkey and Iraq, which stretch for hundreds of miles, seizing the crossing points is a boon for the opposition fighters, allowing them to ferry in more weapons, vehicles and supplies without having to traverse difficult terrain.


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-- Alexandra Sandels and Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles