Iraq to reopen al-Qaim border crossing with Syria
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi official announced that the al-Qaim border crossing with Syria is expected to be reopened on Monday after being closed for over five years as a result of the area being seized by the Islamic State in 2014 and continuing security threats in the area.
Kazim Mohammed al-Uqabi, head of Iraq's border crossing authority, told the INA state media agency on Friday that "Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi has given the official authorization to reopen the border crossing," and that it would "be used for traveling between the two countries as well as for developing trade and the exchange of goods."
"We are hoping that this will help to further develop ties between Iraq and Syria."
Al-Qaim is a border town in Iraq's western Anbar province, located approximately 400 km (350 miles) northwest of Baghdad. It was captured by Islamic State fighters in August 2014 and was later liberated by Iraqi forces in November 2017.
Iraq and Syria have three official border crossings with different names on both sides, all of which were closed in 2014. On the other side of Iraq's al-Qaim crossing is the Syrian city of Albu Kamal. Further north are the Walid/Tinif and Rabia/Yarabiya border crossings.
Before being blocked, the al-Qaim gate was considered to be one of the main supply routes across the Middle East. According to security experts, it has also been used frequently over several years as a smuggling point for extremist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
In late August, unmanned drones outside al-Qaim thought to have been deployed by Israel struck vehicles of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia group that is part of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
The strike killed six militiamen including a field commander, according to a military source who spoke to Kurdistan 24. A statement by the militia group claimed that only two had been killed and a third injured.
Editing by John J. Catherine