Border crossing between Lebanon and Syria reopens

The Lebanese border village of Al Qaa. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2017
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Border crossing between Lebanon and Syria reopens

BEIRUT: A Lebanese General Security Center is being opened at the Qaa border crossing with Syria after the Syrian side opened the opposite Jusiyah crossing after a five-year closure.
A Lebanese security official told Arab News that the passage of individuals and cars would start at 6 a.m. on Friday, “but the expectations are not big.”
The security official said that “the whole issue could be limited to local residents only, because there are Lebanese citizens who have properties in Syria, and there are Syrian citizens who have relatives in Lebanon, otherwise we do not expect the return of Syrian refugees to inland Syria.”
The Lebanese-Syrian border crossing links the Syrian city of Homs with the Lebanese Baalbek-Hermel governorate. The Lebanese official said that “both the Lebanese and Syrian sides intentionally brought the border points closer to a great extent, because some Syrian refugees who fled from Homs to Lebanon set up their tents in no-man’s land, which is about 12 kilometers away. And following the latest arrangement, the refugees have become inside Lebanese territories.”
The security source estimated the number of Syrian refugees in this area to be about 30,000.
The security source noted that “the goal of this move is to control the movement of refugees in this area between the Lebanese and Syrian sides,” adding that “the actual return of refugees is still awaiting a political solution for the war in Syria, which involves tackling the issue of refugees.” However, the source said that “opening the border crossing is part of field preparations for any future step in this direction.”
Meanwhile, the press office of Prime Minister Saad Hariri released a statement by the prime minister stressing that “those who think the war in Syria is over are mistaken.”
Opening the border crossing was not accompanied by any official Syrian-Lebanese rapprochement.
However, two members of the Lebanese Parliament, one from Hezbollah and another from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, who participated in the ceremony on the Lebanese side, came to the Syrian crossing point, where General Mohammad Al-Sha’ar, the Syrian Minister of the Interior, Talal Al-Barazi, the governor of Homs, and some Syrian General Security officers were standing with representatives of the Syrian media.
Al-Sha’ar said: “We are with anything that may serve the normal relations and the natural context between Lebanon and Syria, and there are no hurdles impeding anyone who wants to return to Syria.”
Al-Barazi noted that “the situation will go back to normal, and hopefully the transit activity to and from Lebanon will return to what it used to be before 2012.”
On the Lebanese side of the border crossing, the general director of the Lebanese General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, inaugurated the new General Security center without coming to the Syrian side. He said in a speech that the inauguration of the center “is of great importance at these exceptional sensitive times. We are here to set the borders of our homeland with efforts and sacrifice.”
Ibrahim noted that the center “is furnished with men and equipment to be, first and foremost, a station for safety and security for the Qaa and Lebanese people and, secondly, a guarantee for the freedom of movement for people to and from Lebanon, within the limits of law and mutual agreements, so that the residents of Qaa and its neighboring areas can protect their property and invest their lands without any hurdles or difficulties.”
He also said that “the cooperation with the Syrian side is within the limits imposed by the procedures and laws,” stressing that “the policy of dissociation has nothing to do with opening the border crossing.”
The Qaa-Jusiyah crossing is one of five official border crossings between Lebanon and Syria, all of which are now under the control of the forces of the Syrian regime. These borders include Jdidat Yabus-AlMasna’ (Beqaa), which is open for individuals and vehicles; Dabbusiah-Abbudiah (in the north), which has never been closed; Talkalakh-Albuqeiha, which is still closed; and Tartus-Arida, which is open.
There are many “illegal border crossing points along the Lebanese-Syrian border used by smugglers and people moving between the two countries illegally,” according to the same security source.


UAE minister: Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time

Updated 3 min 5 sec ago
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UAE minister: Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time

  • Gargash, speaking to reporters in Dubai, estimated the number of Houthi fighters in Hodeidah at between 2,000 to 3,000
  • The UN envoy for Yemen carried a plan to halt fighting around the key aid port of Hodeidah where Houthi militia have been battling a regional coalition as he arrived Saturday in the militia-held capital Sanaa

DUBAI: The Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthis for control of Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah will take a “calculated and gradual” approach to the battle, a senior United Arab Emirates official said on Monday.

The comments came after witnesses said eight villagers had been killed and 15 others wounded when Houthi militia shelled a village in the center of the country called Haglan Maris.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE was taking into consideration a “fragile humanitarian situation,” avoiding civilian casualties in addition to military calculations.

Gargash, speaking to reporters in Dubai, estimated the number of Houthi fighters in Hodeidah at between 2,000 to 3,000. He declined to reveal the size of coalition forces but said they had “numerical superiority.”

He said that the Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time.

Gargash added that the Hodeidah port is a “major artery” for weapons smuggling from Iran to the Houthis.

“The liberation of Hodeidah is a major step in freeing Sanaa,” the UAE minister said, adding that “the roads leading to the port are filled with mines.”

France is said to be helping the Arab coalition in demining the roads.

“We have opened the road from Hodeidah to Sanaa to allow the militias to flee without resistance,” Gargash said.

The UN envoy for Yemen carried a plan to halt fighting around the key aid port of Hodeidah where Houthi militia have been battling a regional coalition as he arrived Saturday in the militia-held capital Sanaa for emergency talks.

Martin Griffiths was expected to propose to militia leaders that they cede control of the Red Sea port to a UN-supervised committee and halt heavy clashes against advancing government troops backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

(With AFP, AP & Reuters)