Jordan border crossing Syria 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Majed Jaber )
AMMAN - Syrian rebels said they overran an army garrison that
defends the main southern border crossing with Jordan on Friday and vowed to
press on to take control of the major transit route.
Fighters from the
Free Syrian Army said they captured the Um al-Mayathen post on the main
Damascus-Jordan highway in heavy fighting overnight that ended a siege that
lasted more than a week. Dozens died in the clashes they said.
garrison) is a major defense and now we will lay siege to the border crossing
and cut their (the Damascus government's) supply lines," Abu Omar, commander of
the Lions of the Sunna Brigade, told Reuters by phone.
The army post is
several kilometers (miles) from Syria's' Nassib border crossing which, before
Syria's two-year-old civil war broke out, funneled billions of dollars of trade
between Gulf countries, Turkey and Europe.
Syria's southern provinces
bordering Jordan and Israel have become an increasingly significant battleground
as the capital comes under pressure, with President Bashar Assad's forces and
his loyalist militias hitting back hard.
The intensified fighting has
also led to an unprecedented influx of refugees through Jordan's 370 km (230
mile) border with Syria this year.
Rebels have stepped up fighting for
control of the border area and the nearby town of Deraa in the last two months,
gaining territory and capturing several bases.
They have also overrun
several towns near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, fuelling tensions in the
sensitive military zone.
Only two weeks ago they seized an air defence
base near the strategic southern international highway, bolstering access to
supply routes to the capital Damascus.
Rebels say their capture of large
amounts of weapons, ammunition and vehicles has helped them to maintain an
offensive after a long period in which the southern border area was quiet
compared to northern and eastern parts of Syria.
"The latest gains have
given us more weapons, helping the free army to mount even more attacks on key
army positions," said Abu Salim, from Liwa Tawheed al Janoob
Jordan has stepped up security and deployed more troops to the
border, a Jordanian army source said.
Diplomatic and regional
intelligence sources also said Amman was allowing limited supplies of light arms
to moderate rebel groups opposed to the Nusra front, an Islamist militant group
suspected of links to al Qaeda and blacklisted by the United States as a